Over a year ago I started my real Adult Job™ and since then, I’ve had to deal with a lot of new adult things. One of them started around February and got increasingly worse until November: an unpleasant coworker. I had never really had to deal with unpleasant people for an extended period of time before, because I tend to avoid these people and not keep them in my life. But with a coworker, it’s different. Cause you work together, there’s no getting rid of them, and for the longest time, I assumed there was nothing much I could do about it, so I just let things happen without saying or doing anything.

Let me describe you the situation a little bit. This started out as them not answering when spoken directly to, preferring to purposefully ignore the ones talking to them in favor of looking at their phone. Often shut you down quickly the second they thought what you were saying wasn’t relevant to the current meeting, yet complaining if you scheduled another meeting to talk about said thing. Then it slowly morphed into not saying hi when being greeted, not cooperating when being asked for help, not letting others know what they were currently working on, missing meetings, telling others they don’t care how they feel, complaining about other coworkers, etc. I suppose their behavior could be summarized as ill-tempered and not collaborative.

At first this behavior made me uncomfortable. I didn’t feel good about how they were treating our other coworkers. I felt embarrassed, even. As if I had to be the one to apologize for how they were behaving. I just let it slide though, because my boss was aware of this behavior, witnessing it every day. If something was to be done, he’d be the one to decide. Yet, nothing happened, and when it got worse, it started affecting me more personally.

Because they look intimidating and I have social anxiety, it took me a long time to get comfortable with going to them to ask for help in the beginning, but I got there eventually. However, after all those incidents, I became scared to ask them questions again. Every time they were rude, it put me in a bad mood, too. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the whole day. It gave me a lot of stress and anxiety, I started wondering if they were acting that way because of me. Was I too annoying? Did I talk too much? Was I too dumb and slow to understand? Had I done something to anger them? It made me really insecure. And in a way, it also made me want to be rude back, which is very unlike me. I wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine, see how they liked it.

For the longest time, I didn’t know what to do about it. I felt like talking about it to my boss would come off as childish and whiny, like “boo hoo, they’re being mean to me”. I thought I’d be told to just toughen up and bear with it. So that’s what I tried to do, but eventually it became too much for me. When I was about to talk to my boss about it though, he actually came to me to discuss the subject first. And it felt so good to finally talk about it. I felt so relieved in that moment. Relieved, and like I was being heard and my concerns were valid. By talking about it, I also learned that other people had noticed the behavior of our troublesome coworker too, it wasn’t just me. When I told my bosses that I had refrained from talking about it before, I was told I shouldn’t have. I was encouraged to talk about it again in the future, when or if more things happened. I realized once more, in that moment, that I work in a good company, surrounded by people who care about the well-being of their coworkers.

But this doesn’t stop there. Because in all of this, there are the people being treated badly, but there is also the person treating others badly. The bullied and the bully. And throughout all this, I kept thinking about them too. To behave like this at work, to be so angry all the time, they must have been going through some things too. Maybe they needed help. They must not have been happy for sure. And if it was difficult for us, I can’t imagine for them.

As I’m writing this, thankfully the situation has been handled. My boss met me in private to let me know that he had talked to our troublemaker and that the situation would change. And it did. Now they are back to being more friendly and cooperative and pleasant to work with. And it makes me happy too! I feel a lot less stressed at work. Less like I’m constantly being a bother to someone and more like I’m a valued and appreciated coworker. I don’t know what this person was going through and why they were acting the way they were, but I hope things were resolved somehow and they feel better now. That they aren’t just putting up a front and faking being nice. But that’s out of my control, and none of my business to pry  and meddle with.

First, try not to let it get to you, ruin your mood or make you retaliate. Don’t take their actions personally and don’t let it make you into someone you’re not. One quote I found inspiring during this whole thing was:

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you, not because they are nice, but because you are.”

It reminded me that being nice isn’t only about being so to other nice people. It’s about being nice, period, no matter who you’re interacting with, because being nice to nice people is easy. But being nice to rude people? That’s the real challenge.

However, I also learned that there is a difference between being nice to rude people and letting them reduce your quality of life. At the end of the day, they aren’t fundamentally more important than you, no matter who they are. You deserve a comfortable life and a comfortable workplace as much as they do. So know when to set your foot down and say “This is too much and it needs to stop.” You don’t deserve to suffer in silence for a coworker’s sake. If their behavior is inappropriate, they should face the consequences too.

So, finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your boss or the person in charge. Expose the situation and make your concerns heard. If you work for a decent company and have a good boss, they’ll listen and they will take action. If not, you can always reach out to HR too. They should be equipped to deal with situations like this and probably have had to in the past, so don’t be afraid.

In my situation, I regret waiting for so long. If I had spoken up sooner, it could not only have benefited me, but also my coworkers, people in other teams, and the troublesome coworker themselves, too! Maybe they weren’t even aware of the effect their behavior had on other people. If a situation like this arises again in the future, I will definitely not let things escalate like they did and I will speak up sooner, because really, this is not something worth my worry, my mental wellness or my time.

Have you ever been in a situation like this before? How did you deal with it? Do you wish you had done things differently? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Em