Difficult people are a fact of life. At home you can avoid them by surrounding yourself with agreeable people, but in the work place most of us don’t have that luxury.
While your natural tendency may be to avoid them at all costs, it’s better to deal with them in a thoughtful manner. This is crucial to your career. If you develop the ability to work with anyone and handle the tough nuts, you’ll be the natural choice for promotions and leadership positions.
The following are some suggestions for resolving potentially awkward work situations. Just remember, if we can learn to effectively deal with difficult people our work life will become much less stressful and far more enjoyable.
When our lives are made difficult by unsympathetic and dominating people we can quickly lose our self-confidence. To avoid this it is important not to value the opinions of negative people. If we can maintain a self confidence and self belief then it will be easy to ignore the criticisms of difficult work colleagues. Self confidence will not be built by heavily criticizing the difficult person. Self confidence comes through remembering our own positive qualities.
Should You Find a New Job?
Sometimes the people we work with are so awkward that we want to move and get another job. This is a difficult choice. The first thing to remember is that if we move jobs, there is a high chance we will meet similar problems, just with a different set of people. If we keep moving jobs with the hope of finding an office full of saints, we will be continually on the move.
The first thing is to try and deal with the situation; we need to be detached from the awkward person as much as possible. However, if we have really tried everything possible and work is still making us miserable, then is it worth considering a new job. We spend so much of our waking time in our job that we can’t allow unpleasant people to spoil it.
Dealing with a Dominating Boss
Some people enjoy bossing others around; maybe they have their own insecurities and so they try to take it out on their work colleagues. If you have a dominating boss there are no easy solutions. One solution is to give in on little things and consider them as insignificant. If they insist on small issues are done in a certain way then just comply. Generally, it is not worth arguing about the best place to store the stapler – save your energy for more important issues. Don’t feel bad about having to follow these small instruction instructions, even if you don’t agree with them. Just see it as part of your job.
However, whilst it is good to give in on small things, there are certain issues where we cannot allow ourselves to be pushed around. If your boss is encouraging you to be unpleasant to others, lie or perform deceptive actions, then you should not feel compelled to follow. If you feel inwardly awkward about something then avoid doing it. If you start to follow all the whims of your boss, they will invariably seek to exploit your willingness and only ask you to do more awkward tasks.
If you are asked to do something you feel is wrong, you should also try seek the support of other members of staff and someone more senior in the company. In these situations it is not helpful to suffer in silence; a good company should have a support procedure for this kind of eventuality. If your company has no support structure in procedure, consider looking for help from independent bodies who can offer advice.
Difficult people are usually even more troublesome when you get into arguments. If you are asked to do something you disagree with, it might be appropriate to maintain a silence and just avoid doing it. If your boss encourages you to do the wrong thing, don’t feel obliged to tell him why he is wrong. Dominating people dislike being told they are wrong; in response they will just be defensive and more aggressive.
Instead, just continue to do the right thing. For example, if you are encouraged to speak badly of other colleagues just refuse to do it; make a point of picking out some positive qualities of that person. In these circumstances actions speak louder than words. Rather than arguing directly with our boss, we just don’t follow their bad advice. This means we can avoid doing the wrong thing without having to tell our boss why they are mistaken. This may not help in every circumstance but it is often worth trying.
Dealing With Constant Criticism
Some people seem to have an eye for picking up on people’s faults. No mistake, no matter how small, seems to escape their attention. They even seem to get a certain sense of satisfaction from pointing it out. These kind of people are not much fun to work with, but we shouldn’t let them make our work an unpleasant experience.
Firstly, don’t take all their criticisms to heart. If our presentation has a few errors, it doesn’t mean we are a bad person. If someone is pointing out all our mistakes, remember all the good things you have done; critical people are often blind to the positive contributions people can make. Don’t respond in kind. If we respond to criticism by finding similar faults in the other person there will be no end to the negativity. Either just ignore it or try to find some good things that other people have done. Just smile and remember how insignificant their complaints are.
Leave Work at Work
The good thing about working with difficult people is that at least at the end of the day, you can forget all about your work. But, make sure you do completely switch off from work, and avoid thinking about work problems in the evening and at the weekends. Develop a social life that doesn’t involve just meeting work colleagues. It is good to make a clean break where there is no chance of the conversation being dominated by boring work stuff.
If you find yourself worrying about awkward people away from work, it is a sign that they are having an unhealthy impact on your life. If this is the case, you need to feel greater detachment. Just try not to think about them, tell yourself that whatever problem exists can wait until the next workday.
It is not easy to offer advice about how to deal with difficult people. Every case is different. Whilst maintaining silence may be appropriate in one case, in another circumstance it may be better to seek the help of other people. There is no simple formula for dealing with difficult people. However, certain principles can make your life easier.
The most important thing is to learn how to detach yourself from the problems at work. This means we don’t allow awkward people to dominate our lives. The most effective way to do this is be careful what we think about. We need to ignore their complaints and criticisms and develop our self confidence. If we can develop self confidence then it will be much easier to deal with whatever situation we are facing.
Elsewhere: How to Deal With Bully Bosses
This article was written by Tejvan Pettinger. Tejvan lives in Oxford where he works as a teacher. He enjoys writing on topics of self improvement and updates a blog called Sri Chinmoy Inspiration. Recent articles include: When and How to Criticise Others.
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