How to Deal With a Disruptive and Petty Coworker

by Ashley Miller

Dealing with disruptive and petty coworkers is an unfortunate fact of life for many people. Petty coworkers usually make mountains out of molehills, often engage in office gossip and create a negative, sometimes hostile, work environment. Even if your coworker seems determined to make you look bad, steal your credit or rattle your nerves, you don't have to suffer endlessly. Take specific, empowering steps to let your coworker know you won't tolerate her behavior.

Ignore Your Coworker

Ignoring your coworker's petty, childish behavior is one of the first steps you should take, and also one of the most difficult. After all, it's not easy to sit there and watch someone expend so much negative energy. But while you cannot control your coworker's feelings or actions, you can control the way you respond to his behavior. In most cases, ignoring the behavior is effective because you show him his actions aren't affecting you the way he would like. Try to think of your coworker like he's a two-year old having a temper tantrum. Be disciplined and ignore any urges to respond to him. When your coworker realizes that his behavior is failing to achieve the desired outcome, such as your frustration, he might decide to change tactics to something more productive.

Focus on Your Work

In an article on her website, executive coach and organizational and leadership development strategist Joan Lloyd advises employees who are dealing with petty and disruptive coworkers to focus on their work and leave the rest to management. The chances are high that your other coworkers feel the same way you do. At some point, those in a leadership position will recognize the impact of your petty coworker on the overall work environment. Instead of wasting your energy on your coworker's immaturity and pettiness, bide your time and concentrate on being a productive, efficient team player.

Keep a Record

Keeping a record of the specific things your coworker says and the way she affects your work might help in case you want to discuss the problem directly with your coworker or with management, according to an article for Whole Living magazine by life coach and author Jennifer Louden. Making a note of your coworker's words and actions might help you gain insight into her motives. This can arm you for confrontation, if necessary. You can also use this information to let her know how her behavior has made you uncomfortable. In addition, your notes serve as evidence if you need to enlist the support of management.


In certain cases, you might need to be proactive when dealing with petty, disruptive coworkers. Before you decide to talk to management, it can be helpful to talk with your coworker directly about his behavior, says organizational psychologist and business coach Marie G. McIntyre. There is a chance, however slight, that your coworker isn't aware of his behavior and actions. Confronting him during a quiet moment lets him know that his behavior is unacceptable and gives him the opportunity to change. If his behavior doesn't improve, then you might want to have a conversation with your manager or boss. Enlist the support of coworkers who are also affected by his behavior -- there's usually strength in numbers. Let your manager know the impact of your coworker's behavior on your productivity, performance and morale.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

Photo Credits

  • Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images