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Six Tips for Dealing With Difficult People At Work

Categories: Business Communication

communications2Last week, I began talking about people’s different behavior styles. A thorough knowledge of which style you fall into -- as well as which one your manager and any clients or coworkers you have a tough time communicating with fall into -- can be a huge help to you.

The more you know why people respond and react the way they do, and how your style meshes or clashes with theirs, the better you can communicate.

If you missed that blog post, please take a look at it.

I really like this quote from the brilliant Dale Carnegie: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

Let’s continue talking about working with difficult people, because unless you work in a vacuum, you will have to deal with them at one point or other in your career.

Dealing With Difficult Employees as a Manager

If you are in a managerial position, knowing how to deal with difficult people is particularly important, because your performance will be impacted and measured in terms of the performance of those you manage. You can’t shine without them, so if you have difficult team members, you need to know how to handle communicating with them in a proactive, win-win manner. If you have ongoing communication problems with an individual:

  1. Consider how to approach the issues in a non-threatening, yet direct way -- before you call that person into a private meeting. The idea is not to be right, although that’s tempting, but to change the behavior.
  2. Help your employee see how the behaviors have a career impact. Then set carefully monitored goals for improvement.
  3. Check for improvement. If you see no improvement, it might be time to let that employee go. You had the conversation, and set the goals. It was the employee's job to make the needed changes.

Dealing With a Difficult Manager

What if the shoe is on the other foot? This calls for courage, tact, a good sense of your own boundaries, and a fair amount of strategizing and forethought.

  1. Plan the most diplomatic approach, and then schedule a conversation. You might want to take a page from the military, and ask if it’s alright to speak freely, but make sure to avoid pointing fingers.
  2. Regardless of outcome, stand up for yourself calmly. Do not let yourself be abused for the sake of a paycheck or vague future opportunity (like Anne Hathaway’s character did in "The Devil Wears Prada.")
  3. Consider looking for a new job, instead of confronting your employer. But the operative word in that sentence is consider. Weigh the pro's and con's before rushing off to post your resume.

One parting note ...

Have you ever considered that the difficult person in any work relationship might be you? If so, it could well be time to take a look in the mirror.

We’ll discuss this more in my next post.

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