Dear Rachel,

One of my coworkers is driving me crazy! She’s narcissistic, loud, bossy and two-faced. She speaks badly about people behind their backs and tries to flatter everyone whom she’s not insulting, and she doesn’t pick up on the signals that no one likes her behavior. And she brings out the worst in me! I just got told off by my boss for losing it with her.

The office I work in is very hesitant to fire people. I would quit, but the rest of my job is okay. Also, I’m on the older side, and it would be hard for me to get another job. But this woman’s presence just dominates the workplace like an insidious cloud. I literally feel that she is a threat to my emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Please help!


Dear Desperate,

I hear how distraught you are. Difficult people are put in our lives for a reason—so that we can become better, stronger people. Here are 11 different ways you can cope with—and grow from—this situation:

1. View her with compassion. If this woman is disliked by everyone around her, possesses little or no social skills, and has to slander others to make herself feel important or safe at her job, then she doesn’t have very much going for her. Perhaps she has psychological problems? Perhaps she had a very troubled childhood? Ask yourself: if she were your sister or other family member, how would you deal with it?

2. Don’t feed the narcissist. Melanie Tonia Evans, an expert on narcissistic behavior, writes that narcissists are energy vampires. They feed on the emotional energy that you supply them with. Focus on getting rid of the anger, pain, anxiety and dread related to this person, and remove all thought of the angst she is causing in your life. Act like she has no power over you and your life, and she won’t.

3. Limit your interactions. Stay as far away from her as possible in the course of your workday. Keep any necessary interactions as short, civil and to the point as possible. Refuse categorically to hear anything bad she has to say about anyone, even if it means physically moving away. You need to protect your own wellbeing.

4. Focus on your own behavior. You can’t change other people, only yourself. So stay true to your inner G‑dliness. Don’t slander her or insult her. When she provokes you, ignore her, take your mind to another place, take deep breaths—anything to keep from reacting the wrong way.

5. Grow from the experience. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the chassidic movement, said that we are mirrors of each other—we recognize in others only what we have in ourselves, even if it’s only to a small extent. Ask yourself if there is anything, even the slightest smidgen of her negativity, that is present in you. And work to eliminate it.

6. Focus on the positive. Try to find something good about this woman that you can appreciate. And if you truly cannot appreciate anything about her, focus on other positive aspects of your job. Don’t let this woman monopolize all your attention. And don’t give up on an apple-pie job because of one bad apple.

7. Transform your office culture. As the Baal Shem Tov said, “A little bit of light can dispel a great deal of darkness.” Become more conscientious about humility and not gossiping, the two areas she seems to be darkening your office with her lack of. Find ways to make the energy in the office more positive by smiling and paying compliments. Do your own work conscientiously, and try to get along with your other coworkers.

8. Remind yourself that this is a test from G‑d. G‑d custom-designs every situation in our lives for our personal growth. When this woman aggravates you, remember that she is only a tool in G‑d’s hand, there for you to grow. Repeat to yourself, “This is a test, this is a test.”

9. Pray. Since G‑d is the one who gave you this test, ask Him for help in passing it and guiding you to the right solution.

10. Give yourself credit. When you’re able to contain yourself or follow any of the other above suggestions, reward yourself—perhaps with an iced coffee or that stylish pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. The more you focus on staying in control and positive, the easier it will become.

11. If all else fails, consider leaving your job. Although you say you have limited job opportunities, perhaps this adversarial colleague was put into your life to give you motivation to find a better job. So explore your options; it’ll help you feel more in control of the situation if you’re doing something proactive. And who knows, you may find a better opportunity.

Wishing you success, peace of mind, and loads of positivity!