If you're having trouble dealing with an irritating co-worker, it helps to be specific about what's bothering you. Often, a person is perceived as difficult not because of what they say, but the way they say it.

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Difficult people abound in life. Whether it's grouchy cashiers, road-raging commuters or disapproving in-laws, we're constantly coming face-to-face with tedious people who can ruin an otherwise delightful day. But when you encounter such individuals in the workplace, it can really make life miserable. The good news is that there are some things you can do to effectively deal with challenging co-workers and maintain sanity within your place of business.

From time to time, we're all probably guilty of annoying workplace behaviors. Who among us has never left a dirty dish in the sink or carried on a loud conversation outside of someone's office? Maybe you accidentally burned a bag of popcorn in the break-room microwave and got the tasty snack banned from your office.

Sometimes, however, a co-worker's behavior can go beyond bothersome and venture into downright difficult. In that case, you'll need a sound survival strategy -- and quick. The work day is much too long to put up with a cantankerous colleague.

Before devising a plan for how to deal with a troublesome co-worker, it's helpful to put the situation in perspective. Does the person in question have a hygiene problem? If so, there are probably some simple solutions for putting space between you and the odoriferous offender.

On the other hand, if you have a co-worker who seriously undermines your ability to succeed at work, the problem becomes considerably more complex. Were the two of you once chummy but now have a different on-the-job relationship because of changes in professional roles and responsibilities?

Perhaps the transgression is more serious and requires assistance from your human resources department. Before diving head-first into confrontation, you'll want to examine your own behavior and track record to make sure you don't make the situation worse.

In the next section, we offer tips for confronting the co-worker and making your professional life as peaceful as possible.