Working with Difficult People

We’ve all been there. We just can’t seem to understand a coworkers perspective.  Many of us become combative over every day processes or shut down altogether.  This challenge plagues the most talented people in the highest caliber organizations.  Here are a few thoughts for managing these situations.

Look in the mirror 

  • Consider that your attitudes and actions may be playing a role.
  • Realize the other party likely views you as the difficult person to work with.

Candid Conversation

  • Pause – Avoid having the conversation when angry or frustrated.
  • Avoid the urge to tell everyone else first.
  • Pick a neutral location such as a conference room. 
  • Tell the truth and stay calm.
  • Focus on the problem and not the person.
  • Remember that they likely consider you the difficult person and encourage him/her to be candid with their feelings.
  • Fight the urge to attack or shut down if/when confronted.

Mine for Common Ground

  • Mine for a solution that is mutually beneficial. This can’t happen without candor.
  • Realize that conflict is often a result of a misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities.

Future Commitments 

  • Commit to candid conversation moving forward.
  • Accept that good teams can and should disagree.
  • Assume good intentions and seek to understand before being understood.

Although simple, these concepts can aid in handling difficult coworkers well. Remember that conflict is necessary for high performing teams, but must be productive and solution oriented. Successful relationships yield the results we strive for.


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