So much of our experience at work is defined by the people with whom we pass our days. Those rare occasions when you find yourself part of a team that positively pops and fizzes with creativity and friendly energy, you will remember for the rest of your life; the average day-to-day chemistry with a more or less agreeable team tends to be the standard at which most workplaces level out.

But it just takes one toxic colleague to bring either situation down. A bad attitude in the office can make it the kind of place you just don’t want to go in the morning. And too many people are putting up with this feeling for too long.

There is a better way! Letting such a situation fester rarely results in things sorting themselves out, while the idea of taking deliberate steps to be sympathetic to your difficult colleague’s situation while remaining clear and assertive about how things have to change need not fill you with dread.

Also read: How To Manage Conflicts Between Bosses And Their Staff

Before going any further, take some time to think about what might be causing your colleague’s intolerable behavior. They probably have a reason, even if it’s not a good one! Boredom, feelings of insecurity, or problems at home, can all be causes of snappy or incommunicative behavior. Don’t make any assumptions, but use the information you have at hand to inform that difficult conversation that you’re going to have.

This conversation should be lead with questions, which is a great way of winning trust from your difficult colleague in a potentially argumentative situation. It also means you can get a bit more background to go on before you lay down the law! That part is all about setting boundaries about how your colleague should behave in general (you may need to temper this down if you’re not their boss) and how you expect them to behave towards and speak to you.

Whilst on some level it sounds like intuitive stuff, it will help your confidence (and your approach) to make an informed plan before you set out to improve matters. This new visual guide to office-place problem solving contains just about all you need to know to turn things around when your workdays are being ruined by a difficult colleague!

[Infographic] How To Create A Better Work Atmosphere By Defusing Difficult Colleagues

Download the eBook and learn how to use neuroscience to attract the right talent, retain high-performing employees and foster collaborative teams.