Methods of Negotiating with Difficult Colleagues

In a perfect world, everyone at the office would work collaboratively toward a common goal. People would understand their roles and responsibilities, do them without asking, and work cohesively as a team. Unfortunately, no work environment is perfect and there are times when your colleagues might not be pulling their own weight. When this happens, you have the option to take your frustrations to the boss or you can address the issue with your colleague and negotiate ways to get the job done. Negotiating a solution is a practical idea but it can present challenges if your colleague is difficult to work with. Here are a few suggestions for how to negotiate with a difficult colleague. 

Speak Calmly

Losing your temper or getting angry isn’t the best way to get your co-worker to collaborate with you. This is especially true if you are dealing with a difficult personality. You are likely to make the situation much worse if you come to your colleague with frustration and accusations. Rather, calmly approach your colleague and express your concerns. Someone who speaks calmly is seen as being in control and more respectable. 

Seek to Understand their Perspective

In any negotiation, it is important to understand the needs and intentions of the other party. In the case of a colleague, don’t assume that they are being difficult on purpose. Perhaps there is an underlying reason that is motivating their behavior. Ask questions and seek to understand their perspective. Try to uncover the reasons why they might be acting the way they are and seek ways to compromise on a solution. 

Determine What You Want

Before proposing any kind of solution, you need to be aware of exactly what you want. You also need to determine your BATNA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Are you willing to compromise? What concessions are you willing to make? How far can you go before you declare there is no deal? Knowing your BATNA will provide you with the necessary boundaries and limits. 

Be Open to Different Options

The more flexible you are and the more you are willing to consider alternative solutions the higher your chances of successfully negotiating with a difficult colleague. Difficult people want to feel like they are “winning” so if you can reach a win-win solution that is beneficial to both parties, it increases your chances of successfully negotiating through the conflict.

Know When to Take it to a Higher Authority

There are several strategies for negotiating with difficult colleagues but sometimes they are just unwilling to compromise. If you have tried everything else and your colleague is still not receptive, this might be a time to bring it to your manager. Sometimes the only way to get a difficult person to cooperate is by using the top-down approach. Do be careful, however, and only use this approach when absolutely necessary because you don’t want problems with the co-worker to escalate and you don’t want your manager to think you are incapable of handling your own problems. Nonetheless, there are times when this will be the most effective method for negotiating with a difficult person.