Dealing with Difficult People in the Workplace
The ability to get along with others in a workplace is a prized skill. To sustain right relations, professionals have to develop the business and political savvy to deal with difficult bosses, colleagues and subordinates. On top of that, conflicts arise daily because there are sometimes up to five generations working together in the workplace, in addition to people from different cultures. There are genuinely difficult people, but more often than not, it’s a lack of understanding of others why some may appear to be difficult.
Despite the reason for someone appearing to be difficult, there are strategies to use to create a more harmonious workplace.
Look at your own behavior: If you are finding that most of the people with whom you interact with are difficult, it’s time to look at your own behavior, and how you actions are contributing to difficult relationships. Look at your prejudices and perceptions of others.
Try not to take things personally: The person that you are having problems with may treat you the same way she treats others, so it’s not really about you.
Separate the issue from the person: When you are discussing an issue with a difficult person, find ways to separate the issue from him. So for instance, instead of saying, “Your proposed solution is flawed,” instead say, “The proposed solution will not work because….”
Get them involved: Involve difficult people in critical projects and decision-making at the beginning to reduce resistance. This will make them feel like they are a part of something big and they will champion the project.
Express gratitude and appreciation whenever it’s appropriate: The most difficult and unlikable people are capable of performing excellent work and deeds. Express sincere gratitude and appreciation – be authentic so that you do not appear insincere and unbelievable.
Ask questions and reinterpret what you hear: The most difficult people tend to have very strong opinions and beliefs. To gain clarity around what is being said, ask questions, and reinterpret what you heard to prevent miscommunication. And resist the urge to fight or win an argument.
Show an interest in them: Invest the time to get to know people who are from different cultures and generations. Observe and ask questions, as well as read articles and books about them. Being flexible, accepting and understanding people from different cultures and generations will set you apart from others in the workplace, and they will make an effort to work with you, creating a better workplace environment.
Support what you are saying: When you find yourself facing resistance to important initiatives from people who are difficult to deal with, instead of becoming defensive, provide documentation to support your claims, and point of view.
The list of strategies outlined above to deal with difficult people is not exhaustive, but implementing a few will improve the atmosphere in the workplace, while allowing you to become more understanding and accepting of your colleagues.
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