How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

text reading "dealing with difficult people" over photo of a man with his head in his hands looking frustrated.

Every office has one. At least one. Some have many. You know what I mean? Difficult people.

Difficult people are not going anywhere. Which means you need to find a way to coexist and, preferably, prosper. But how?He/she/they lack any redeemable feature that you can latch onto, and cultivate in a way that will lead to terms of engagement you can at least live with.

Sure you might daydream they quit or get fired, but until that happens (if ever) you’re stuck with them. You may as well look for a solution to make working with difficult people less of a nightmare and more of an acceptable – perhaps even comfortable – working relationship.

First step is to recognize the situation. It has a name: it is called conflict. When we are in conflict we always, and only, have three choices available to us and it is useful to evaluate them, and select the one most likely to provide us with the solution we desire.

The Three Options to Deal With Difficult People

Option One: accept things the way they are. Accepting things the way they are means that we able to come to terms with the situation, be at peace with it, and are able to go about our business. We can do our jobs to the best of our ability, without being affected by the antics of that difficult person or those difficult people.
Option Two: confront the situation. Simply put this means to seek some type of negotiated and agreed upon solution that is acceptable to all parties, and sustainable by all parties.This often means addressing our concerns directly with the person (possibly a good strategy), talking to everyone other than that person (almost always a poor strategy) or seeking help and guidance from a person in higher authority.
Option Three: the most extreme of all – exit the relationship. This might involve requesting a transfer to a different position in the organization, seeking employment elsewhere, or simply quitting your job as a means of removing yourself from this unpleasant environment.
Typically, this is the least desirable as it requires subjecting ourselves to considerable inconvenience. If you have not already guessed, Option Two offers the widest range of flexibility, thereby providing the largest menu from which to select appropriate choices.
In a situation of this type – annoying workplace colleague(s), I recommend against Option One. Accepting things the way they are may well be the path of least resistance and seem to be the easiest road, but it also ensures guarantees that the annoying behaviors will continue and possibly increase. It is likely to be a temporary solution at best.
Accepting things the way they are suggests doing and saying nothing and by saying nothing we are, in fact, rewarding the behaviors we despise. An old axiom teaches us that what gets rewarded gets repeated which means by our silence, we are training those folks to continue their poor behavior.

Don’t Reward Difficult People

I also a firm believer that there are no circumstances in which we should ever reward bad behavior. Most often, the solution lies in the options offered by Option Two.

There is no one size that fits all and no one approach that will work each time, but if we are willing to experiment with different solutions, we will eventually find the one that works the best. Most often, in dealing with these workplace conflicts, seeking solutions from a third-party does not bring about a mutually acceptable resolution.

Consider this, in the workplace you are expected to develop the capabilities to work with a variety of personalities, some of which you like, many of whom you don’t. The mark of a professional is to be able to work as effectively with someone you don’t like as someone you do. 

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”Sometimes that’s all it takes for a beautiful friendship to get its start.

Till we read again.

Photo of Rael Kalley,Habits coach in calgary canada

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