The Federation of Recruitment and Employment Services' Christine Little gives her tips for dealing with the colleague from hell.
A happy atmosphere, good teamwork and getting on with colleagues are vital components of job satisfaction. But the need to hit bigger targets against tighter deadlines can alter the dynamics of the workplace.

As pressure mounts, personality quirks that are tolerable at a more relaxed pace can become hard to endure, and a usually pleasant manager or colleague can turn into the workmate from hell.

Not surprisingly, unhappiness at work is a major cause of staff turnover, so here are some pointers for coping with stress-inducing staff.

Check out your own behaviour

Do you always have a cheerful greeting and a smile for those you work with? You don't have to be Pollyanna but a positive disposition is a valuable attribute. It makes it very hard for others to turn on you.

Develop a positive attitude

This produces a ripple effect and will bring positive vibes back your way. Don't become the office prophet of doom who moans and groans their way through each day. If you find you have times of the day when you feel seriously down, look at your caffeine intake – it may be causing mood swings.

Get talking

Suggest that you all get together regularly to discuss how you can improve within the company. This should promote team-spirit and give you a forum for airing concerns before they become full-blown problems.

Colleagues behaving badly?

Try not to take it personally – they may just be having a bad day. But if you are the target of persistent intimidation, you have to act.

A recent TUC survey found that more than 5 million people have experienced bullying at work at some stage in their career. Those in professional and managerial roles are particularly vulnerable.

Have a laugh

It may go against traditional British reserve, but it is often effective to confront a persistently difficult person about their behaviour

Laughter is a great stress-buster. That doesn't mean you should spend the whole day telling jokes, but it is important to be able to stand back briefly at critical points and see the funny side of a situation. Or at least laugh about a trying time once it's over.

Take breaks

If a colleague is driving you crazy, take a 10-minute walk round the block. It can work wonders. If time permits, a swim or walk at lunch-time will leave you relaxed and ready to face the person in the afternoon.

Ask for advice

If one colleague is making your life difficult, find out discretely if others have had the same problem and how they dealt with it. Even if you continue to suffer, you can take comfort in knowing that you're not the only one. But take care that you don't initiate a company-wide slanging match against the individual.

Share the suffering

It may go against traditional British reserve, but it is often effective to confront a persistently difficult person about their behaviour. Don't be aggressive – go for a coffee, tell them what you have noticed and suggest you work together to rectify the situation. Most people are unaware that they're being awkward and will reform if it is pointed out to them.

Change your expectations

If you like to be sociable with workmates and this isn't happening with one colleague, you might have to accept that your relationship will only ever be superficial and professional.

Take a look at yourself

If somebody constantly criticises your work, it could be that they have a point. Before you complain, make sure you are convinced that what they say is unfair or not constructive.