How do I deal with difficult coworkers?


coworker-unityYou work in a field where you are almost universally admired, yet there are rare rotten apples in the mix…coworkers who make life as a nurse less rewarding.
Let’s bring back the harmony in the workplace. We consulted seasoned nurses, managers, administrators, and career experts to help solve your biggest pet peeves.


The best thing to do is ignore it. Sounds rough, but that’s how it has to be. Concentrate on your own work. Eventually, the slacker’s poor work ethic will be noticed and he or she will be fired. There are two exceptions to the Ignore It rule:

1. If a slacker’s laziness affects your work, it’s okay to tell a supervisor. You shouldn’t have to do extra work on the slacker’s behalf.

2. Report the slacker if his or her poor work habits endanger the life of a patient. Negligent behavior won’t be tolerated for long in a health care setting.


If you’ve watched The Office on television, then you’ve seen incompetence in action on a weekly basis. The Office is hilarious escapism, but dealing with an incompetent superior is nothing short of an inescapable nightmare. What to do:

1. Don’t take your boss’s ineffectiveness personally.

2. Take notes. Document every boneheaded decision your manager makes. If your boss does something that threatens your job, you’ll have documentation and proof that will validate your performance.

3. Be the strong, silent type. If your boss is bad at his or her career, then it will be apparent to all.

4. Validate yourself. If you’re the type who needs external validation, a bad boss may not be able to give it to you.

5. Learn to network. Your boss is only the boss of you during work hours. Branch out and see what other career opportunities are available.


MDs are sometimes known for having over-inflated egos, which can be as grating as a crying baby in a movie theater.  Unfortunately, you can’t walk out on your career like you can a movie. Keep these few things in mind:

1. Arrogance is often a cover for feelings of inferiority.

2. Egotistical behavior is no measurement of abilities.

3. You may never be able to get past the doctor’s ego; however, you will have to figure out a way to communicate properly in order for the patient to get proper diagnosis and treatment.

4. If you think the doctor’s arrogance may be harmful to a patient, talk with the doctor in private. If that doesn’t work, talk with an administrator.


Know-it-alls are the worst because they can’t possibly know it all, unless they’ve made some sort of Faustian deal with the devil. And we can safely guess they haven’t. How do you deal with this frustrating archetype?

1. Avoid arguing back, and instead say something along the lines of “That’s a good point. I’ll take that into consideration,” or use other half-ceding, noncombative remarks.

2. If you decide to argue with a know-it-all for some bizarre reason, make sure to do your homework beforehand. Ask the person to cite sources in their arguments.

3. Don’t get emotionally invested in the argument. Whatever argument you’re having doesn’t really matter in the grand scope of things.


As children, we all had to deal with bullies. And now that we’re all grown up, we still have to deal with bullies. Yes, life can be cyclical, and in this instance it can certainly be unfair. Bullying can be physical or verbal. Either way, you don’t have to stand for it.

1. Document the bully’s actions. Write down the things she said. Take note of her actions. There is power in information.

2. Stand up to the bully. Confront her, but don’t stoop to her level. Tell her that you won’t put up with her behavior. Try and get her to take a frank look at her bullying ways.

3. Go to a supervisor. Bring your documentation. If it’s a supervisor who is the bully, go to a higher authority.

For more advice on coworkers, patients, and more, go to Scrubs Expert Answers.


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