Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

Often our most challenging times at work are dealing with people who push our hot buttons in some way. Perhaps we experience them as being uncooperative, unsupportive, intimidating, or outright vindictive.  While I can understand you would want to run from these people as fast as you can, I encourage you to stop in your tracks and consider the situation from a spiritual perspective.

Accept the Challenge as your Calling

You are brought to this situation to be a spiritual presence.  When you model peace and harmony for others, you shift the energy where you work.

Often the lessons we most need to learn are brought to us from people who challenge us the most.  In order to develop patience, we need to be in situations where patience is required.  In order to practice compassion, we need to experience situations where compassion is required. In order to learn where our growing edges are, we need to be pushed to the edge.  When you get annoyed with someone, take time to see what the situation is calling of you.

I’ve written before that our work environment is where our spiritual unfolding takes place every bit as much as with our families, our faith communities, and with friends.  You can be spiritual and bring peace everywhere you go- if you set your intention on that.  Others are presented to you so that you can choose how to be more spiritual. You are always provided opportunities to practice greater love, patience, graciousness, acceptance, forgiveness, peace.  That’s the real work we are here to do!

Co-workers as Spiritual Partners  

Guess what?  Your biggest lessons keep coming back to you so you can practice.  Maybe you practice with one person for a very long time, such as your partner or family member.  Maybe you get reminders periodically so that you practice for only a short time.  You may have to dig deeper to find a way through it.  You may have to reach out to others or use prayer to find greater support with your challenge.

While these times and people may not feel particularly pleasant, they are in fact brought to you for your spiritual progression.  Rather than get angry, stomp away upset, or otherwise feel uncomfortable- stop.  Breathe.  Relax.  Pray. Reflect.

  • What is this person here to teach you in this moment?
  • What are you required to practice with this person?
  • How are you creating peace this instant?

You have drawn these people and these situations to you so that you can work on those aspects of yourself that need polishing.  Take the opportunity to see what needs to shift within you rather than focus on changing or judging them.   As we read in Matthew 7:3 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”  These people trigger your own hot buttons (eg., defensiveness, impatience, arrogance, self-doubt, not taking responsibility for your actions).    Thank them for bringing into awareness your areas of growth.

Find ways to choose love, acceptance, compassion, peace, awareness.  Not only will you develop more spiritually, but your work place will become more peaceful as you remain a spiritual presence.


For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.


2 responses to “Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers”

  1. Dan Juraschek

    Linda, I really love this. I so appreciate your graceousness in these comments.
    Someone one said the two people have to share something in common in order to have an argument. A proverb says that “Iron sharpens iron”. Often, when we reak to something strongly, it is because it is connecting with something important to us, a value, belief, etc.
    It is in these areas that we feel threat the most and also have the biggest opportunity for growth.
    Your advice of resisting the tendency to close down, avoid and flee by choosing love, acceptance, compassion, peace and awareness is so helpful.

    That sense of threat is so hard to overcome, and peace can feel so far off. I am wondering what ways people have found to anchor in the peace and not get lost in the threat.

  2. Mandy Havert

    I have had a challenging year professionally and personally. I still feel like I want to rail inside sometimes, but knowing that I do have that calling, really does help. There was a lightness in the great darkness that became my day-to-day interaction in the workplace. Linda is spot-on with the approach that worked best for me. I believe that the hardships I was encountering in family life, the loss of a parent to terminal illness over the course of five months, really kept me centered on what is important in this world and what is not. What were Linda’s words? “…we experience them as being uncooperative, unsupportive, intimidating, or outright vindictive.” I ran the gamut of reaction to my impressions of others being somewhere along that spectrum. Rather than cave (and trust me, I did gnash and find ways to express my frustration), I steeled myself and started a long term introspection. I recently determined that I cannot determine what the source of the problem is, so all I can do is leave that behind and frame everything in the moving ahead and going forward.

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