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Dealing with difficult people

In How to work better on June 27, 2008 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , ,

The importance of good work etiquette and a healthy work environment is staggering. The difference between work environments can be quite broad–the kowtowing and formalities necessary which one is dealing with doctors’ surgeries (for instance) versus the fun and lighthearted atmosphere of the university institute. as examples.  But it is the very difficult situation brought about by two conflicting personalities that fail to see eye-to-eye that really concerns me.

The atmosphere that one’s colleagues creates is beyond one’s control–this must certainly be a universal finding, across professions and cultures. I wonder if it isn’t like an arranged marriage. After all, one is being thrown into a situation without any background information, and hopes to be respected and even cherished, but wants to avoid conflict or abuse at all costs. (I was about to direct you to an etiquette website, but after reading it, I feel it is a little naive and Pollyannaish.) We will all likely encounter difficult people and having the skills to deal with them would be more realistic than teaching everybody to smile all the time.

Something I read in Psychology Today struck a nerve with me:

“One clue that a person is attempting to intimidate or manipulate you is the use of unpredictable, or protean, behavior—acts that are random and seemingly out of the blue. A dictator keeps his minions guessing—and scared.”

It is important to arm ourselves against harassment in the workplace, but equally important to realise that some people will not change–nothing has changed them yet! Sometimes, I think, the best move may out the door and towards a more supportive environment. And this is where I differ with the Psychology Today article, which advises you to try to be understanding when the boss calls you a “screw-up.”

Update, April 2009: I have recently done a search of the blogosphere and I am still coming up short on blogs or websites that offer advice on how to deal with difficult workplace scenarios that is not completely biased towards protecting the employer and their interests.

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One Response to “Dealing with difficult people”

  1. The author has something against Neanderthals, who I suspect had far better ways of dealing with difficult co-workers than he has…

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