How to deal with friendly people who refuses to collaborate?

A colleague SJ is a nice lady who highly values being nice to others, including coworkers and clients. She told me that she likes peaceful environment.

However, other colleagues such as GH and KA may not be happy and agree with her ways of doing things because they think that SJ is jeopardizing the safety of our clients for the sake of being nice and liked by the clients.

When I need to help solve this conflict through arranging a meeting, SJ can be difficult to deal with and shows lack of clear prioritization of what matters, even though she is friendly and smiling to me. Then, I understand the frustration of GH and KA. Simultaneously, GH is of type A personality, who is strict, adheres to rules and wants to get things done.

SJ is likely of type C personality, who displays pathological niceness, conflict avoidance, high social desirability. Sometimes, as a leader, we must have the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.

People who are excessively nice has an uncontrollable, almost obsessive need for the approval of others, irrespective of whether they are colleagues, family, friends or strangers.

Later, I learned that SJ is very good in using excuses, either other commitments or compassion-based excused. SJ told us that she could not attend an important urgent meeting after I tried to schedule it for the third time because she has a project work with MAJ. When I consulted MAJ, MAJ informed me that SJ is not required to do the MAJ’s project on that particular day and told me not to let SJ used MAJ’s project as an excuse. On another case, SJ has earlier on agreed verbally to assist in a project M1. SJ did not bother to reply to my earlier email requesting a written confirmation, I had to call / seek her personally. Later on 20151001, SJ emailed me that she could not help in the project M1 because she could not drive after 6 pm. Can’t SJ just take a taxi, which is ubiquitously available here, for just one day? The fact that we had difficulty in scheduling the urgent important meeting with SJ this week, was likely to be contributed by SJ’s tendency to leave workplace early.

On 20150929, when I was left with only few minutes for my presentation, SJ came to my office to ask me to believe in her regarding others’ complains about her. I told SJ that I could not attend to her, but SJ just came in smilingly and sit down without being invited.

While I tried not to be judgemental, I conclude that SJ is a non-collaborative colleague, or even a lazy one, who wears a smiling face and acts friendly. Laziness isn’t one of the 7 Deadly Sins for nothing. However, we need to deliver our projects.

Some possible strategies:

  1. Assess if the person is genuinely difficult or just cranky for a short time.
  2. Accept that it is hard / impossible to change a person, it’s not even a good idea to try.
  3. We acknowledge that when a variety of people with different perspectives, values, experiences, education, lifestyles and interests come together, differences abound.
  4. Accept that working practices and styles are incompatible for some people.
  5. We believe that every conflict and tension can potentially be resolved.
  6. To resolve conflict, only collaboration and sometimes compromise can work.
  7. Decide which compromises you can live with and which — such as violations of ethics and integrity — we should not accept.
  8. If everything else fails, do not collaborate with co-workers like SJ in the future because bad collaboration is a waste time and resources and produces no results. Deciding not to collaborate is a better option than bad collaboration.

See also:




  1. […] others’ conflicts, attending to (sometimes irrational) demands of our customers, dealing with difficult co-workers can be physically and emotionally consuming for […]


  2. […] I need to deal with non-collaborative people, I prefer to work […]


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