HUMAN RESOURCES / JUL. 29, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Working With and Managing a Difficult Person

No matter where you work, you will encounter a person who is difficult to deal with. It may be a male or a female co-worker, or it may be a supervisor. Every place of employment has a difficult individual who is a thorn in everybody’s side. You must accept that these people exist in every workplace and then you must look for ways to make your workdays as peaceful and as conflict-free as can be.

But how do you accomplish this? How do you manage such a feat?

It is simple really- you need to learn how to effectively communicate with these individuals and how to encourage them to act positively towards others instead of negatively. How we respond to others is a reflection of our own views of ourselves and the world around us. Before you try to deal with someone difficult, check your own attitude and ideas. Are you communicating positive ideas and thoughts to others or not? How we interpret what happens around us is very subjective and very telling of our behavior.

Understanding Their Behavior

What you need to do is to attempt to understand the difficult person. Try to think reasonably and feel from this person’s point of view. If you can learn to read the signals they get from other people and interpret their mannerisms and body language, this can make it easier to relate to them and thus you can get beneath their difficult exterior to the real person inside. Just as you can be misunderstood and react in a less than favorable manner, perhaps the difficult person has developed a negative pattern of behavior because he or she was constantly misinterpreted, treated unfairly, or ignored at work. Understanding the root cause can go a long way in changing the behavior.

A “difficult” person may not be difficult at all. This person may have built up their defenses to protect themselves from being hurt further. The defensive and even openly hostile behavior they may exhibit to their supervisor or work colleagues might actually be a mask that covers up anxiety, worry, fear, frustration, or pain. No one likes to be pushed aside, misunderstood or treated badly and this may very well be what has happened to the difficult individual at your place of work.

Be Proactive Not Reactive in Your Communication

If it is absolutely essential that you have to work with a difficult person, always be polite, kind, and respectful. Realize that you cannot single-handedly change the person but you can change the ways in which you respond to their difficult side. We are all responsible for the actions we take, the choices we make, and the attitudes we have.

Learn to anticipate the untoward behavior of a difficult individual and by so doing, you will be able to sufficiently cope with it. The key is to become proactive, as opposed to simply reacting to the words and/or actions of the office’s difficult individual.

Working with and managing a difficult person may seem problematic at first but the key is to look deeper into why the person is the way they are. Take the time and put in the effort to understand their attitudes, feelings, and behavior. It may be that they do what they do to disguise past hurts and to prevent themselves from suffering future pain. Show by example in your dealings with the individual. Be proactive in your communication, as opposed to being reactive. Show them kindness and be polite and respectful. By being responsible for your actions, you may help bring about a positive transformation in theirs.

Image: Difficult Person

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