How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

Do you hate your boss? Is one of your co-workers driving you batty? Maybe it’s an employee you can’t fire for whatever reason. Here are ways to cope that don’t involve quitting your job!

1. Try to find the best in the person who’s annoying you. Yes, this advice isn’t going to surprise you if you’ve been reading my blog and watching my videos; I’m a big fan of trying to find the best in others, no matter how difficult. For example, maybe your boss has three small children at home; consider that you might be a tyrant at work, too, if you weren’t getting enough sleep. Try to see him or her in a different, more loving role. Of course that doesn’t mean he or she will be loving to you, but if you can visualize your boss in a more amicable role, it might help.

2. Try to understand what motivates the annoying person’s behavior.  For example, if your co-workers are terrible gossips, maybe they do it to feel better about themselves; they might have low self-esteem.  Maybe they’re bored at work. Maybe they are just negative people and that’s the entire reason behind it. Usually, though, you can figure out what’s motivating them if you look for it, and with understanding comes peace (or at least a less active feeling of annoyance).

And remember to deflect the gossip and change the conversation. Gossip is toxic and you don’t want to be a part of it. The bonus is that if you do this enough, they will either stop gossiping or turn their attention to someone else with it.

3. Use a buffer if you can. For example, if you have an employee who irritates you, but you can’t fire because he is otherwise a valuable member of the team, use someone else to deal with him. Or if you’re part of a team project, see if one of the other members will report to your boss. Keep in mind, though, that having face-time with your boss generally helps your career, even if she’s annoying.

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4. Finally, look within yourself to see if your actions are triggering these behaviors in others. Again, this suggestion probably isn’t surprising to you if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, but ultimately you can control your — and only your — actions.  If you can figure out what you’re doing to contribute to the situation and fix it, you’ll have a much easier time resolving the issue.

For example, maybe you’re an introvert, so by nature you’re more quiet. You also like to get to the point when you communicate information; you don’t spend a lot of time on chitchat when talking with employees (you view it as a waste of time).  You notice that one of your employees is always very cold and abrupt with you. She’s a valuable member of the team who contributes to the overall success of your company, but you dread dealing with her surly personality.

At first glance, you don’t understand why you see her talking freely and happily with others, even other supervisors. You consider it, though, and realize that she might think you don’t care about her as a person because you don’t converse with her about non-work matters. What you consider a waste of time she considers to be a valuable part of a human interaction. Consequently, you start asking about her family, her vacations, etc., and you notice a remarkable change in your relationship.

How have you dealt with difficult people in your workplace? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and be sure to pass this article along if you think it would be useful to others. Thank you!


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