Whatever the details of your job, whether you’re a brain surgeon or a janitor, some things never change. In social care jobs, just as at NASA, there are employees who are difficult to get on with, managers who don’t seem to have your best interests at heart.

Handling these difficult times at work is an art. Sometimes it’s possible to win the battle but lose the war: if you go in too hard, you can appear difficult, and make it harder to win concessions in the future. You need to know your rights but also be able to build a persuasive case.

Today we’re putting that difficult art under the spotlight to help you come out on top not just in the short term, but over the months and years of your entire career.

Building a Case

If you’re having difficulty with a colleague or manager, or a policy your workplace is enacting, you need to start building your case as soon as possible. Even before you’ve decided exactly what action you’ll be taking, keep note of emails connected to the issue. Save them, print them out or forward them to an off-work server so that whatever happens you still have access to them.

When you have conversations in person or by phone, make a note as soon as possible of the substance of the conversation and of the date and time.

Write an overview of the issue, and use specific examples you can draw from your saved emails and notes to illustrate it. Even if events don’t escalate further and you can resolve the issue without official proceedings, doing this helps to put things in perspective. It reassures you that you understand the issue and that you aren’t overreacting.

Try Diplomacy

Before escalating things further, try to have a quiet word with the person who’s causing problems. This is especially effect for less serious or personal issues: if someone is consistently leaving you with extra work, or taking items that aren’t yours from a shared fridge for example may just not be aware of how their actions are affecting others.

In more serious cases where the issue you’re having amounts to harassment, you’re under no obligation to try to resolve it quietly, especially if you don’t feel safe, so skip this step.

Higher Powers

If you can’t resolve your problem with a frank discussion, person to person, you’re going to have to escalate. If you have a problem with your manager, going over their head could make life difficult for you down the road so think carefully about this. If you have a union consult them, and if you don’t, consider joining one, as they can offer advise for most workplace difficulties.

If you do have to institute proceedings, whether it’s an internal discipline or an employment tribunal, try to be dispassionate. You can explain how someone’s behaviour made you feel in the moment, but when demonstrating your evidence try to focus simply on explaining what happened. It makes it easier to make your case and get the result you need.