Office Politics

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work



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The workplace contains a fascinating jumble of personalities. In addition to co-workers who are easy to work with, you will also find people who will, deliberately or unintentionally, make your days a literal nightmare. What makes the workplace a unique environment is the fact that everyone on the team must cooperate in order to ensure productivity. This poses a daunting task to those individuals who have not adapted to the challenges of working with difficult people.

Here are five common types of difficult people you may meet at work along with some practical advice for getting along with them. 

One of the most disliked individuals in the workplace is the delegator. The main interest of the delegator is to engage in as little work as possible. Some, who might have a legitimate reason to delegate work to others, for example managers or team leaders, can be quite inconsiderate and rude. These delegators, in general, are not too bad. More difficult are co-workers who try to charm you into doing work they have been given or don't want to do. These difficult people thrive in offices where team work is encouraged. Even though you should help your colleague, avoid being bogged down by work that your managers did not delegate to you specifically. Having to constantly cover for a colleague is a very stressful situation that you should try to avoid. Firmly tell your co-worker that you have your own work with which to deal.

Sometimes too, the delegator turns into a credit grabber does not acknowledge any help that is received from others. Credit grabbers can graciously accept all the praise for an excellent project without mentioning that it was mostly done by someone else – you. The only way to address this problem is to ask your resident credit grabbers to let others know about your participation. If this is not done, make sure you let others know about the role you played in getting specific projects done. This is where you indicate to your selfish colleagues that you will not be assisting with any assignment that is not mandated by your superiors. 

The chatterbox is probably your most friendly co-worker. The chatterbox is usually on an emotional high and wants to bond with you. In trying to share their many views on life, chatterboxes have powerful distracting influences. You just can’t concentrate when a chatterbox is around. One nice way of quieting a chattering co-worker is to listen for a while and then politely excusing yourself. Rather than risk insulting your colleague, you can postpone the conversation to another time when you are not engaged in work. Instantly engage in some activity to punctuate the end of the conversation. Make infrequent lunch dates with chatterbox friends whose company you enjoy. Let them vent at these times. They will love you for this.

Another person you must pay keen attention to is the workplace gossip. Gossips communicate a lot of factual information that you might not get through more acceptable channels. This advice, though, is only for those with the ability to sift through gossip to arrive at elements of truth. Listen to your institutional gossip but don't become a gossip too. Also, if the gossip being shared is of a very personal nature, change the subject or say that you don't feel right discussing someone without the person being present.

Then, there are always persons in a group who can never find anything about which to be happy. If they are not complaining about aches, weather or family, they are complaining about job related activities, the company, the administrators or another co-worker. Everything seems to be a problem for these people. Even though some of the complaints may be legitimate, the constant whining can get overpowering at times. Avoid the impulse to staple their lips shut. This won’t help. It won’t help either to offer any advice. Just change the subject whenever the complaining starts. Your complaining colleague should get the hint after you do this a number of times. Walking away if the complaining persists will also help. Excuse yourself politely. 

Liking difficult people is never going to be possible for normal people but it is possible to get along with them. You just need to identify them and find coping strategies to deal with each type. Find polite ways of slipping out of their clutches and you will deny them opportunities to reinforce the negative habits that make them difficult people to work with.


More about this author: Courtney Lindsay

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