Dealing with a Horrible Colleague

When a colleague is horrible at work, some people just hope that the person will stop at some point. Others will not take that sort of behavior and will fight back immediately. And then there are those who are not sure what to do.

If there is a horrible person in your midst,

Sometimes there is more to it than meets the eye

What is making this person so mean? Are they feeling threatened and are they hiding their own insecurities. Some people tend to behave aggressively towards others when they are insecure in their abilities. And especially if they think that their competence is under scrutiny or being questioned. Whether true or not they will react to this and more often than not they will try to deflect attention from themselves-by targeting others.

Most times, people are usually nice so when a person is being horrid the first step is to try and understand what’s causing the behavior. Is the person insecure, are they battling to keep up, are they jealous of your good work and of you because you are the go to person by others because of your skill?

Find what is prompting this bad behavior as the fact is, when you look carefully most bad behavior has a source. And it can be overcome with the help of another person offering support and an ear to listen. Perhaps that person could be you.

Know that personalities in a workplace differ

Some people will be easier to work with than others and some will be easier to connect with than other. It is worthwhile to learn the different personalities. As long as you put in the effort to learn this you will find it easier to get to the bottom of things. Sometimes the effort can be as simple as a greeting in the morning or a friendly smile as you pass the horrible person during the day. When you approach the person in a friendly way this may diffuse or improve the situation.

Know the landscape

What is the role the horrible person plays in the organization? What are their responsibilities, and how do they intersect with your own job responsibilities? Make an effort to learn the landscape. And with this knowledge try to figure out a way to establish a good working relationship with them. If all goes well, the effort you put in will lead to a better working climate and a new level of camaraderie. And before you know it, the horrible behavior will be a thing of the past.

Do you have a role in the forces at play?

Have you in any way caused the person to feel threatened or to see you as a target for their bad behavior? Look at what you’re doing and ask yourself if maybe you are provoking the situation. Are you being insensitive, blind to your own behavior or maybe you are over-reacting and are misinterpreting the behavior and may have unknowingly contributed to the problem.

Try to do some self-evaluating and see if you have a role to play in the aggression. However, self-evaluation can be tough so get a second opinion from someone you trust, who will tell you the truth and help you resolve matters.

Prepare for the aftermath

If you decide to confront the person, be prepared for a very uncomfortable and tricky encounter. But, try to clear up as many issues as possible… all the ‘facts’ and ‘hearsay’. Preferably have a third party present. And a neutral location.

Also, you may have to prepare yourself for the aftermath of this confrontation. It may turn to be more horrid behavior or it may be a total turn around and are new level of camaraderie and respect. Either way, prepare yourself for the aftermath.


A Zambian site sharing quick read articles around work, money and adulting life with selective interviews and quotes.
The founder, editor and lead writer who left university with a good grasp of public administration, economics, money, banking and international relations is also qualified in journalism and creative writing. She has been published in Drum and The BBC Focus on Africa Magazine and has been featured in several local and international publications.
An avid bird watcher with an extraordinary fondness for chikanda ( a Zambian delicatessen that vegans and non-vegans world-wide are putting on their bucket list ) she often tweets in poetry and short prose @kwachalelo