7 Ways To Give Feedback To A Difficult Coworker

Giving constructive feedback is not always an easy task, especially when it’s something you want to tell a difficult coworker. But once you learn how to give constructive feedback, it will become much easier for you. Here are the seven ways to give feedback to a difficult coworker and some employee feedback examples to assist you.

#1 Try to Remain Objective

First of all, you need to remain objective. Being objective is extremely important for mutual understanding. Emotions can cloud your vision and make you appear aggressive when you talk about what concerns you. In addition to that, taking on an exclusively subjective perspective can make you involuntarily start hating your coworker. But if you judge the situation objectively, you will see it more as gray instead of black and white.

But how exactly do you stay objective? Is it even possible to do so? Indeed, no matter how hard you try, you will probably never be completely objective in your judgments because you will be seeing the situation through your own eyes. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for objectivity. Try to keep in mind all the details of the situation and better understand why your coworker did what they did.

For example, you might be thinking that your coworker is consistently gossiping about you. You see them talking to other employees while looking at you. Obviously, they are saying something mean, aren’t they? But before you jump to conclusions, consider for a second that you could be reading the situation incorrectly. Maybe they weren’t talking about you and only looked at you because you were staring at them.

#2 Integrate Your Opinion

That being said, sticking to objectivity is not the only way to go. You should also integrate your opinion into your feedback. Otherwise, you might resolve only part of the issues that you were concerned with. By focusing solely on the objective issues you found, you might just end up forgetting what made you so angry or irritated by them in the first place. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between subjectivity and your opinion.

As Tim Emerson from the writing services reviews site Online Writers Rating says, “You need to find the right balance and stick to it. When you want to give a difficult coworker some feedback, you need to think about them just as much as you need to think about yourself. Tell them what bothers you but judge them objectively rather than only talking about your own feelings and emotions.”

For instance, in the situation described above, you would need to do two things. First, you need to explain to your coworker what the situation looks like from the side. They keep talking to other employees while looking at you which seems like they are gossiping about you. Next, you need to tell them about your own feelings. You feel irritated or angry (or even upset) by the notion of them spreading gossip about you.

#3 Focus on The Problem

One thing to keep in mind while providing feedback to a difficult coworker is that you should focus on the situation – not the individual. The reason why you wanted to give them feedback was that you didn’t like the situation that they created by their behavior – and that should be your target. Of course, you might have strong feelings towards the person, but you shouldn’t forget that making it personal will not do you or them any good.

Perhaps the best way to differentiate between the person and the situation is by focusing specifically on the results rather than what led to them. Rather than starting with what you think about the person, you need to start with the situation that made you want to give feedback in the first place. Then, you can talk about the person’s actions that led to the situation, and only then you might decide to focus on the person.

#4 Value the Person

Another thing you should definitely do is value the person and show them this. Praise them where you can and show them that you value them even though you are angry or annoyed by them at the moment. After all, you are coworkers which means you might be working in a team and at times. And even if you don’t, you will probably have to work with them in the same environment for quite a while.

And that’s exactly why it’s so important to solve the conflict before it can grow into a war between you two. If you don’t approach the problem objectively and give the person proper feedback, you may end up becoming angrier at them while they might develop bad feelings about you in return. Remember that the person you are angry with is also a human being. Everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be forgiven.

Moreover, you need to realize that the coworker you are giving feedback to is just as valuable of an employee as you are. Of course, you might believe that they don’t work as much as you do which diminishes their achievements, but you should still try to find something good in them to make the discussion as respectful as possible from both sides.

#5 Don’t Make A Scandal

Making a scandal out of your confrontation is a real possibility that should be avoided at all costs. It may be tempting to call out the person on their actions in front of everyone else working with you, but this will only make the situation much worse rather than help you resolve the conflict. Nobody likes being embarrassed in front of others – and nobody likes being considered a diva or a drama person.

As Scarlet Coates from the custom writing reviews site Best Writers Online puts it, “When you are confronting a difficult coworker to give them feedback, you need to do it in private. It’s your personal concern with their behavior that’s bothering you, so you need to be the one talking with them. And embarrassing them in front of everyone will only make them angry at you while you can get a bad reputation for such an act just as easily.”

Keep in mind that this is not the end of the world. Of course, you might want to talk to your other coworkers before deciding whether your judgment of the situation is objective. However, it’s better to discuss this either with your family or your friends. Avoid discussing it will coworkers because this might make the matter no longer personal.

#6 Listen to Them

One obvious issue that may arise when you are giving feedback to your coworker is that you may stop listening to them and instead talk too much. You need to remember that this is a conversation – and a conversation can only happen between two people. You aren’t reciting a monologue. You are trying to resolve an issue that has been bothering you and you decided to address it by confronting the person that has caused the problem in the first place.

After you have told them about your concerns, listen to what they have to say. Perhaps, you have interpreted their actions wrongly and assumed something bad immediately instead of considering the possibility of something innocent. For example, with the aforementioned situation, your coworker might tell you that they weren’t talking about you and simply noticed you looking at them and decided to look back.

#7 Be Respectful

Last but not least, you need to be respectful of your coworker. Apart from showing them that you value them and listening to what they have to say, you need to be respectful and polite at all times. After all, this is the only way to have a proper conversation without any of you lashing out at each other or developing negative feelings. It’s crucial to be civilized and act like decent human beings.

One thing you can do to show that you respect the other person is by keeping your conversation private and informing them about it. If the matter is particularly serious, they will be glad that you haven’t taken your complaints to your boss and have decided to confront them directly instead. Another thing you can do is start your conversation by telling them how much you appreciate their efforts within your team.

Of course, if all else fails, you will probably have to file an official complaint to get the matter addressed by the HR department or your boss. But this is something you will need to do if your coworker is being even more difficult than before. If they are being rude or mean or they keep laughing at everything you say, you need to tell them that you will file a report if they don’t want to solve the problem one-on-one. If they keep being rude, you can go ahead and file the report.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, giving critical feedback to a difficult coworker is necessary as it is a part of proper communication. To prevent misunderstandings between you and them, use the tips in this article to give feedback.


Nancy P. Howard has been working as a journalist at an online magazine in London for a year. She is also a professional writer in such topics as blogging, IT and marketing.

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