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How to Deal With a Difficult Employee That Is the Boss's Favorite

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The only thing worse than working with an annoying or difficult colleague is when that employee has the favor and the ear of the boss. The staffer may be a long-time employee, a close friend of your manager or a high producer for the business who is allowed leeway in behavior and attitude because she brings in significant revenue for the company.

Become Friends

As the saying goes, if you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em. If it’s obvious to you that an employee is allowed to run amok, try killing her with kindness. Befriend the colleague by inviting her to lunch or for coffee, ask her advice or opinion or volunteer to help her on a individual or group project. You may find this approach softens her difficulty, at least toward you, and opens the door for you to create a better working relationship with your boss.

Lay Low

While it's not always possible to avoid a difficult employee, you can take steps to minimize the interaction you have with her. For example, try to avoid group projects that involve the difficult staffer, work a different schedule or relocate your workstation to an area where you won't have regular contact. Be cordial, yet don't get embroiled in drama or get manipulated into taking on work projects that aren’t your responsibility.

Launch a Group Complaint

If enough people in the office have a problem with the difficult employee, present a united front to your boss or human resources representative and detail the circumstances that make the individual hard to work with. Be specific, noting a lack of teamwork, poor work product or substandard interpersonal and communication skills. Even if the difficult staffer is the boss's favorite, the prospect of alienating or losing a large majority of other staff members because of one person may prompt your manager to open his eyes and make a realistic evaluation of the employee and her impact on the office environment.

Use Caution

One of the most challenging things about working with a difficult, favored colleague is that alienating her may inadvertently alienate your boss as well. Use caution when you have conversations or work with this individual to ensure that you aren't criticizing your boss, your assignments or working conditions, as these comments are likely to make their way back to the manager. If you find yourself continually walking on eggshells, suffering from stress or seeing your own work product decline because of the difficult employee, consider seeking employment elsewhere.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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