Handle Challenging Colleagues with Kindness

Respond To Difficult Colleagues With Kindness and Mindfulness

It’s only natural that when you spend the majority of your week at work, the people there will get on your nerves. Whether someone is sexist, sucks up to the boss or whinges about everything, there’s bound to be someone who annoys you. There could even be a colleague that reminds you of a childhood bully; aggressive and often causing tense situations.

The way we handle these difficult coworkers has a profound effect on our mental health, and our career as well. I’m all about kindness, and how it’s one of the most powerful weapons we have against the bullies and negative people of the world. Here’s how you can use kindness (and mindfulness) to deal with those colleagues that push our buttons.

Understand your triggers

Everyone has buttons that, when pressed, can provoke a strong reaction. Yours could come from your family, how you were raised, or what you believe in, and may or may not be logical. Whether intentionally or not, these points are bound to be triggered through our day-to-day life.

It’s important to do some self-reflection to identify your trigger points so that you can be more prepared to handle it when someone inevitably triggers you. Instead of snapping instantly, take a pause and consider what has happened and why. Is this person actually pushing your button, or are you just being too sensitive? How can you respond to the situation in a kinder, healthier way?

Anger isn’t an option

Anger is harmful to your health, your career and your judgement. Even if someone at work is purposefully trying to make you angry, returning that anger will do irreparable damage to your reputation.

It might be an instinct to react in anger when you’ve been treated poorly, but you can learn to avoid immediately turning to this reaction when faced with conflict. Mindfulness is key; stopping to take deep breaths before you respond allows you to handle the situation with kindness, calmness and rationality.

If you really cannot control yourself, then the next best thing is to excuse yourself and step away from the confrontation. There’s no shame in choosing the ‘flight’ instead of ‘fight’ reaction.

Put yourself in their shoes

When someone is hurting you, why is it that they’re doing so? More often than not, it’s because they’re hurting inside. Keeping this in mind will help you be more compassionate towards your difficult coworker. You’ll be able to understand just why they’re acting the way they are, and that will help you cope with their antagonistic behaviour. It also allows you to step back and look at the bigger picture, reducing conflict and helping you be less stubborn in your own views.

Reflect on why you feel this way and learn from the opportunity

Sometimes, it’s not actually the other person that is the issue at all. While this can be hard to realise, it will only benefit you and your workplace relationships in the long run. Maybe this coworker bothers you so much because they represent what you don’t like about yourself?

The other thing to do is try and be grateful for the experience, no matter how unpleasant. Each conflict can be turned into a learning opportunity, where you heal and discover more about yourself.

Show kindness to yourself and your challenging coworkers

Remember that holding onto anger and negativity ultimately harms ourselves more than anyone else. Instead of instantly reacting to a tense situation and adding fuel to the fire, take a deep breath, put yourself in their shoes and think about what kindness you’d want someone to show you if you were in that same position. Being the bigger person is rewarding; your well-being is improved and you’re showing your leaders that you can handle conflict with ease. Have the courage to be kind, even to those who hurt you.

About McDonald Inc.

Our Leadership Legacy

At McDonald Inc., we know that courageous leaders inspire courageous action. For more than 20 years our founder Sonia McDonald has been nurturing executives, businesses and leadership teams through leadership coaching and leadership programs.

We don’t just train your employees we transform them into courageous leaders. Whether you are looking to continue to develop your high performing leaders and teams or need help turning around a poor leadership culture, McDonald Inc. offers in-house programs and coaching.


To foster courageous leadership in organisations across the globe by training, mentoring and coaching emerging leaders, team leaders, managers and executives.


At McDonald Inc. we seek to foster courageous and kind leadership so that the people leave work smiling each day, in turn creating more prosperous and successful businesses.

Brand Values

McDonald Inc. develops the skills, confidence, and leadership of leaders at any point in their journey as well as facilitating cultural transformation. We benefit our clients by assisting them to have higher staff retention, improved performance through teamwork and an overall more profitable bottom line.

Contact us

Website – https://www.mcdonaldinc.com.au/

Email – letschat@mcdonaldinc.com.au

Phone – 1300 719 665

About the Author Sonia McDonald CEO of McDonald Inc and LHQ

Sonia McDonald believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.

For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.

Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognised as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.

She is an award-winning published author and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.

Keynote Topics

Sonia will give you peace of mind when booking a speaker. She is a proven world-class professional speaker with the skills to “rock an audience”. Her energy, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, and humour will enhance any event she appears.

1. Leadership Attitude

2. Just Rock It

3. Leadership for Small Business

4. Leading the Next Generations

5. Courageous Leadership

6. Future Leaders of Leadership

7. New Kindness of Leadership

Phone 1300 719 665