Red Responds: Coworker Conflict

Frustrated at work writes:

I need help. I am so frustrated at work. I feel like I have no support. I have a co-worker that can be very confrontational at times. We are on equal standing but at times I feel like he thinks he is my boss. Sometimes it seems like he intentionally picks fights with me. I want us to work as a team but I feel like I have to watch my back with him.

I have talked with him and it doesn’t seem to do any good. I have talked with my boss about him and he doesn’t seem to be very eager to help. He has told me to work it out with the guy. We work at a place that it is difficult enough to get work done with some of the outside agencies that it makes it even more difficult when we don’t get along. He thinks I am trying to be his boss at times and I feel the same way about him. I used to love working with this guy and I used to look forward to coming to work. Sometimes I feel like I am working with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it just seems lately there is more of the bad side than the good. I am so frustrated at times I want to quit. I have started looking for a new job because I don’t feel my boss is supporting me and I can’t keep coming to a work environment that is this difficult. I don’t know what changed and why this guy is no longer the one that I enjoyed working with and why now he is more confrontational. We don’t seem to trust each other anymore.

I would like to go back to how it was, but I don’t know if that is possible or how to do it. I don’t know how to approach this guy. I feel like the times I have, he just gets defensive and then doesn’t listen to my side of it. Yesterday I felt things were improving just to have him be the complete opposite today. Please help. If there is something I am doing wrong, let me know what I should be doing. Is this some issue of his own? Or is there something I am doing to provoke it?

Dear Frustrated,


Your co-worker is definitely dealing with some personal issues, and it is impacting his demeanor at work. Throw on top of it that you seem to be amongst a bit of a “boys club,” and it does make for a challenging work environment!


Sadly, office relationships many times evolve from a friendship to a competition, as is your case. Missing the good old days isn’t going to bring them back, and trying to talk through these issues with your co-worker only has limited effect. You are letting your emotional turmoil over the situation get the best of you. While you may not be consciously aware of it, your feelings are seeping out as defensiveness and your mistrust is apparent to your co-worker. This isn’t helping to resolve the issues, it is only feeding the tensions.


Life is better in the workplace when everyone gets along. However, that doesn’t always happen. Rather than handle this situation from a personal perspective, you would get better results if you approached it in a more professional manner. While it is hard to squelch how you feel, it is not impossible. Take some time to draft out an email to your co-worker, and focus on the goal of working as a team. Ask him for his thoughts on how the two of you can more effectively work together. Just be sure to keep the tone pleasant, and do not type anything that could come back to bite you. Invite him to lunch to further discuss the issues, and to work out a plan of action that is more supportive of both of you, and creating a better working relationship. Don’t make this a laundry list about what he has done or how you feel. Keep it professional, but not so much that you come across as cold. This approach won’t turn back the clock, but it can bring about at least a little change and relief.


Your boss isn’t going to be of much assistance in settling squabbles. What do you want him to say? Fight nice, children? The only time you will see intervention from him is if the work suffers. Unless policy is being violated or there is obvious wrongdoing, there isn’t a whole lot he can do. He isn’t going to pull your co-worker aside and suggest he be nicer to you because you’re unhappy with the dynamic. He’s more or less writing off your unhappiness and concerns as you simply being female.


You have the option of leaving, but it is going to take some time before you find the right job. I really don’t see you changing jobs until mid to late summer, most likely in August. If this is the path you decide to take, take the high road. Letting the attitudes of others force you out of your job is not a joyous experience, so if you are going to let it happen, make sure you can exit with a jab and smile. Search for a position that will further your career rather than a simple lateral move of escape.

Good luck!
Ext. 9226

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *