Dealing with difficult people in the workplace is a constant threat to your job enjoyment.  Knowing how to handle on-the-job conflict can make these situations less intense.

Difficult coworkers usually fall into these main categories- the office gossip, the lazy coworker, the grumpy/demanding coworker, and the know-it-all. We will discuss how to handle these types in this article.  The key to handling any conflict is to remain calm, use appropriate skills, and set reasonable professional boundaries for yourself and the other person. Boundaries allow you to protect yourself in a reasonable and effective way.

The office gossip- This person is constantly trying to engage in conversation about the company, coworkers, and situations at work.  This person is dangerous because whatever you say to them is likely to be both repeated and exaggerated.  Usually people like this have learned this behavior and are not trying to be mean or nasty. It is a negative habit. Confronting the office gossip usually makes me them feel “unheard” and “cut off” and will usually make you their next target of discussion.  Modeling good behavior yourself is the way to assist the office gossip into realizing their behavior is not acceptable. Do not engage in conversation about your peers, the company, etc.  Cut them off by gently changing the subject. An example would be something like, “Yes, I can understand your frustration regarding this issue, but I believe it will work out in time. So, what did you do on your free time yesterday?” In this way, you acknowledge what they said but did not agree or disagree, and then gently changed the subject. These people enjoy talking and may allow you to change the topic of conversation if you show you a willingness to hear them on other more appropriate topic. They leave the conversation feeling heard and with an upbeat attitude. So, acknowledge what was said without agreeing or disagreeing and change the subject. If this does not work, find a reason to gently excuse yourself. Acknowledge and change the subject. Acknowledge and remove yourself from the conversation. Eventually, the individual will not find you a good source to discuss company gossip, and yet you did not offend nor chastise them.

Dealing with a Difficult Coworker for Medical Billing Job

Lazy Coworker- Sometimes you will find yourself doing the work of a lazy coworker. This is a person who seems overwhelmed with their job, and is constantly asking for your assistance.  If you find this situation to be ongoing and feel “used” by this coworker, you need to handle the situation in a gentle yet graceful manner. The next time they ask for help, offer “some” assistance, and then offer “advice” on how they can manage their time to get the project done in a timely manner. In this way, you are seen as helpful but also you’ve set a boundary that you will “do” the work for them. You’ve offered to assist, and offered information in how they can pull it together on their own. If the lazy worker, doesn’t take your advice and continues to lean on you too much, then a gentle yet frank discussion over lunch may yield a more positive result. Clearly state that you do not mind assisting them at times, but that you must get your own work done, and may not be able to help them as much as you have in the past, but are willing to assist by offering some time management and workload strategies if they are interested. In other words, assist them in getting more organized if they are interested.  If the problem continues after this, then it’s time to speak to a supervisor explaining that you do not wish to take on extra work in this manner.

Grumpy/demanding Coworker- A grumpy or demanding coworker is the hardest to deal with me. Most people are afraid to confront such a person because they fly into a rage. They make demands on you with the expectation that you will comply. These coworkers are usually lateral to you in nature, and are quite controlling and dominating. Usually, setting a firm boundary is needed. These people are usually very blunt and direct and like it that way back. Usually, a meeting with a direct and firm confrontation is necessary. And example may be: Jane, I felt put off and offended when you handed a stack of reports to file for you. I did not have time to do it. You did not ask me to do it, but told me to. I do not mind assisting you when I am able and have time. From this point forward, if you need assistance, I need for you to “request” my assistance, and if I’m able to assist you, I will. If I am not, I do not feel it’s fair that you then appear “angry” or “upset” with me. I want to maintain a harmonious work relationship with you, but not like the way you make me feel sometimes. If you get a positive response, great. If not, then you simply state, “I am sorry that we were unable to work this issue out between us.” Then escalate the issue to management notating days, times, and each issue that occurred. Make sure that you document the measures you took to try to resolve the situation on your own you and the outcome of such. Be objective in your comments.

Know-it-All- The office know-if-all is always fun to deal with, not. 🙂 This is the person who feel that she knows the right way to do everything.  Usually, this person means well. They wish to be in management and usually have a sincere desire to assist. Make use of your desire and try to understand them. Usually, a frank discussion over lunch will assist this person to see that they are upsetting their coworkers. Take them to lunch and let them know how much your appreciate their enthusiasm and desire to help, but that you feel that you have it under control. Explain that you feel negated as a worker and person when they try to take over without your asking for their help. Explain to them that if you are having a problem or issue that you will gladly go to them for advice (and do go to them should you need assistance.) Usually this will handle the office know-it-all. 🙂

Learning to handle inter-office conflict is key to success in any office environment. Offered by AAPC, and for other credentials through AAPC like the CPC credential.

By: Dawn Moreno, PhD, CBCS, CMAA, MTC. Lives in the beautiful Southwest United States and has been an instructor for medical coding/billing for the past 7 years.  Interested in quality medical billing training?  

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