7 Mindful Ways to Handle Complicated People at Work

Complicated work situations are not a rare occurrence. Many of us have had a difficult co-worker to deal with at some point in our careers. From people who don’t submit their work in time or don’t show up for meetings, to people who just can’t work in a team or who are overly competitive. 

Unfortunately, these kind of people exist in all workplaces, and we will have to deal with many of them throughout our lives.

Here are 7 ways to handle complicated people at work:

1. Accept the situation and develop empathy

“Those who pray for your downfall are concentrating negative thoughts towards you, without taking cognisance of the slippery ground in which they are standing, which could lead to their downfall.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

Complaining about an adverse work situation will not make it go away. It is better that we try to understand the situation, and find a way to understand and accept our intricate colleague.

People’s characters are a reflection of their own mental limitations; when people try to hinder us, it is usually a sign their mind is obstructed by their own negativity.

Try to develop empathy for your co-worker; carry your peace and joy with you wherever you go and try to remain positive and optimistic despite the difficulties ahead.

2. Learn how to accept criticism

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” ― Winston Churchill

Though we don’t generally like being criticised, sometimes it can help us identify weaknesses we didn’t know we had. It is important to rigorously analyse the criticism we receive and decide whether there was is any truth to it.

If you find it is meaningless bitterness, disregard it immediately. If there is any truth to it, accept your weakness and become mindful of it. Try to strengthen your weakness by using the SWAN meditation.

3. Minimise conversations with difficult colleagues

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem, for every solution.” – Albert Einstein

Our words always carry our emotions, no matter how hard we try to hide them. There is little use in speaking to someone who lacks mental clarity, and is best to stay away.

Only speak when it is necessary for work, or when you have something constructive to share. Remember, a negative person will always find reason to express negativity. The less you engage with them, the lower the chances of pointless disputes.

However, this shouldn’t stop you from being polite and greeting everyone –including your critic – when you come into work each day.

4. Keep your cool in heated situations

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.” – Paramahansa Yogananda

Endeavour to keep yourself composed and balanced no matter how difficult the situation may feel. Don’t let anger overcome you. After all, nothing constructive results from anger. Anger only obstructs judgement and mental clarity.

If you train yourself to remain calm in stressful situations, you will grow strong and resilient. Qualities which are needed in leadership positions, and that will most certainly boost your career in the mid-term.

5. Never accept abuse from anyone

“You cannot expect to live a positive life if you hang with negative people.” ― Joel Osteen

Workplace abuse can be of four types: bullying, discrimination, harassment or even violence. All of these can result in depression, fear and anxiety. 

Tolerating hurtful treatment weakens your self-esteem and self-confidence. Letting others insult you and not doing anything about it sends your subconscious mind a message that you deserve what is happening to you. In time, your subconscious mind will normalise abuse, which will only fuel your insecurities and worsen the situation for you. Never let anyone humiliate you, stop them in their tracks without resorting to anger or violence.

6. Breathe from the navel and find your centre

“Stay centered, do not overstretch. Extend from your centre, return to your centre.” – Gautama Buddha

Breath and thought are directly related. Breathing deeply from the navel helps us think less. It takes our awareness from our mind and into the navel, which is the human centre of action.

Learning how to breathe from the navel will help you remain calm and lucid in life’s most challenging situations.  

7. Speak to a higher authority

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” ― Audre Lorde

As an absolute last resort – if all else fails – speak to your manager. Sometimes people get very competitive and there is no way to resolve situations without the intervention of a higher authority, especially in bureaucratic organisations.

Be sure to explain to the manager you have tried empathy and diplomacy without any positive results. Be careful not to exercise this option too many times as your boss won’t like solving your problems for you too.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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