How to Deal With Difficult Personalities at Work

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How to Deal With Difficult Personalities at Work

Whether it’s a boss, a co-worker, a subordinate or a customer, dealing with difficult people is never easy. It can ruin your day — it can even ruin your life if you let it.

Most of the time what makes a person difficult has little to do with you and a lot to do with them. You can’t control what they say or do, but you can control how you react.

Here are some suggestions on how to minimize the impact of difficult people on your workplace.

1. Understand

Understanding is the first step to solving any problem. For example, bullies often use aggression to hide their own weaknesses. Naysayers fear change. Office gossips are often lonely, so they trade in secrets to give them a sense of power and connection. Lazy staff can lack motivation and inspiration. Angry customers often just want to vent.

2. Analyze

Study how the difficult person makes you feel and what their impact is on the workplace. Decide on a course of action that works for you.

3. Diffuse

Consider diffusing the situation by asking the difficult person what you can do to help them. Sometimes a genuine offer of support can be enough to turn around the situation.

4. Confront

If the difficult behavior continues, you may elect to confront the person about it. Explain to them what you see and how it impacts you and the workplace. This path is not for the faint-hearted, so be sure of your facts and keep a cool head.

5. Avoid

Let’s be realistic, you can’t change everyone no matter how much you want to. Sometimes avoidance is the best tactic. Explore how you can minimize your encounters with those who you elect to avoid.

6. Escalate

Be sure of your facts. Don’t argue with emotion. Explain what the issue is, what you have done to resolve it, what the result is and how it impacts the business. Then, offer some suggestions how you can be part of the solution rather than the problem.

7. Innovate

If you sit at the top of the ladder, look at ways to create a culture of inclusiveness and acceptance that brings out the best in your staff. Don't force people to work together; rather, offer them creative and cooperative opportunities where they can naturally develop a mutual respect.

8. Accept

Not everyone is going to get on with everyone in the workplace. Be kind to yourself and those around you.


Julianne W.

Julianne holds a Master of Letters from the University of Sydney. She has been writing professionally for over two decades. Her work includes business plans; feature screenplays, television series, and shorts; copywriting; blog posts and novels.

Jobs Completed 14 Customer Ratings 9 Job Success 14/14 (100%)

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