Managing Difficult People At Work

The workplace is often not a comfortable or easy place to be – the sheer collection of different people you come into contact with, both inside and outside the organisation can raise some serious issues in terms of getting along effectively with others. Hardly surprising then that stress caused by working with difficult and challenging people is an increasingly important part of getting tasks accomplished.

Taking an objective view of these situations is not easy but the following pointers should help ease the pain!

  • Be human about things: each of us have days that are basically better than others and where things go well, and not so well. Patience and resilience are key factors in getting through this minefield and whilst it might be tempting to let loose with some choice words about the impact of Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms. Difficult Person cut them some slack and ask them if they need some help or assistance, tactfully of course. Better to turn the difficult person into an ally or a friend rather than someone who you are confrontational with.
  • Be open about your feelings: some people are not very self-aware so the best approach here is to tell them constructively what the problem is or what you need from them. By being open this should diffuse any potential problems moving forward and hopefully stop the problem from escalating further.
  • Manage expectations: people who make unreasonable demands upon your time and duties are a major cause for concern in terms of disrupting effective working relationships. If this does happen act quickly, but carefully, and explain why their expectations are causing a problem and try to agree a more sensible balance where both of you can get tasks accomplished in a realistic timeframe. This is a key factor in establishing rational discussions in the future and a far more realistic working relationship with less friction and animosity.
  • Be tolerant: good teams need a mixture of characters and skills to allow it to function well. Just because your approach is different to that taken by others does not mean it you are automatically correct in your way of doing things. Styles may well clash but getting along to achieve goals and tasks as set is an important part of the modern workplace.
  • Be assertive about aggression: walk away if someone is aggressive, regardless of this being either verbally or physically. Personal safety issues should never be compromised.

Where you have tried everything you can to improve a difficult relationship at work but nothing has worked you need to consider your options. You could try and ride it out, forge some allies, avoid them where you can and adopt a style of working where you justify everything that you do to fend off any attacks on your outputs.

In most workplaces there are members of staff who are psychopathic in their behaviour. Utterly ruthless, these individuals are incredibly resilient, fearless and not constrained by ethics or a moral code. Beware if they have you in their sights, because they are smart, manipulative, very plausible and have no compunction about causing damage. If this is the case it might be time to find another job!

Good Luck!

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