How Teachers Can Handle Difficult Co-Workers

Author: Kathy McInnis


Your Emotional & Mental Health are Valuable!

Here she comes — the obnoxious co-worker. You cringe as she approaches. Bracing yourself against a snide remark, you offer your warmest smile and greeting. She walks by as if you’re invisible. Instead of feeling snubbed, you breathe a sigh of relief. After all, isn’t being ignored better than her normal rude behavior?

Teaching is challenging and sometimes very stressful. Dealing with difficult co-workers adds another level of stress to your already demanding career. The following are suggestions on how to handle difficult co-workers.

  • Show Respect. Showing respect to an annoying colleague may seem impossible at times. Their actions and attitudes stoke your anger and disdain. Instead of lashing out, remind yourself that she is a fellow human being and a colleague. Offer respect even when it’s not deserved. Showing respect means treating her as you wish she would treat you.
  • Offer Friendship. Summon the courage to seek her friendship. Start by offering to assist her with a project. If she refuses your assistance, let her know you are always available if needed. Invite her to lunch or dinner. If she refuses your first request, try again a few weeks later. Your kind persistence may lead to discovering the person beneath the grumpy façade.
  • Ignore and Accept. You can choose to ignore her behavior and just accept her as she is. Ignoring her behavior does not mean ignoring her as a person. Adopting this attitude isn’t easy to implement and may take several weeks or months to develop. Remember, you cannot control another person’s actions. Focus on what you can control — your reactions to her behavior.
  • Establish Healthy Boundaries. When a co-worker’s behavior steps over your comfort zone and you become anxious, bitter, or resentful, it’s time for healthy boundaries. Establishing healthy boundaries in any relationship is essential in guarding your mental and emotional well-being. Saying “no” is one of the first steps in establishing boundaries. And “no” means “no.” Period. You will not tolerate any behavior that causes you to become an anxious, resentful person. It may take several conversations with the co-worker before she respects your boundaries. That’s okay. While she may react in anger, there’s always a possibility that she will learn to respect you more.
  • Report Abusive Behavior. When a co-worker’s words and actions become abusive, it’s time to alert your supervisor. Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated. If your supervisor is the abusive party, follow your school’s guidelines in reporting such behavior to the administration.

Students deserve a happy, healthy teacher. Your emotional and mental health are too valuable to allow difficult co-workers to rob your pupils of that gift.

For more information on dealing with difficult individuals, check out The Challenges of Handling Difficult Parents.

About the Author

Kathy McInnis

Kathy McInnis writes inspirational nonfiction. Kathy’s first book, “Companions on My Journey”, is the true story of an abuse survivor. Her essay “The Perfect Day” won third place in the 2021 Florida Tapestry Awards. When she’s not writing, Kathy enjoys hiking, sitting on the beach, or reading a good mystery. Kathy and her husband have three grown children and three grandchildren.

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