Working with Difficult People: Final

5 Mar

sbangeldevil1This post is the final in my series on Working with Difficult People, and it’s about me. Or you. Because face it, at some point, each and every one of us is a difficult person. That’s the most important lesson to be learned. Even when the difficult person is someone else, there’s something to be learned about oneself.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of talking with the Columbus Young Professionals on this very topic. I was struck by their level of interest. Here are some of their questions, and my answers:

  1. If you are working with a difficult person, why not tell your boss? While there are certain circumstances that warrant this response, be careful about the unintended consequences. Every work environment is different. Some would perceive this as whining and hold the discussion against you. Others might use the information you share against the “difficult person” in ways you had not imagined. Others would rightly help you to see your way through the process, perhaps having very appropriate discussion with the difficult person so as to fine-tune their interface.  And finally, other supervisors ARE the difficult person in question, in which case you will need to devise a clever strategy to preserve your sanity. NOTE: Heinous behavior such as sexual harassment should be handled by frank discussion with your supervisor, but use discernment to determine your course of action for run-of-the-mill difficult behavior.
  2. When do you know if it’s time to leave a workplace with an out-of-hand difficult person? Only you can know the answer. Everyone has their own limits. Most situations are manageable. The great thing about workplaces is that most times we are working with a group of others, not just one other person. In all likelihood, we get along with some in the group, are neutral towards some and downright don’t like working with a minority.  This is work, and this is life. It’s the natural order of things.
  3. How do I know if I’m the problem or if the difficult person is just the issue? This is a good opportunity to take a reading from the people you work with. Ask around without gossiping. Describe the scenarios that have created tension and assess whether or not they ring true with others. It’s important to gather a lot of information in the workplace so that you can know the lay of the land. Having awareness of yourself and others in the ecosystem of work is critical to long-term success and productivity. Once you’ve collected information from a few trusted sources, think on it and you will have an answer.

Tell me about your dealings with difficult people…there are always new stories that prove this point: You can’t make these things up!

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One Response to “Working with Difficult People: Final”

  1. Adam Conley March 8, 2009 at 12:11 am #

    Speaking of difficult and unusual people at work, several years ago I was working for a company where, one day, a very odd event had occurred.

    There was a man who wear odd looking ties and would often brag about a novel that he himself had written, concerning a woman who had been scorned by an ex-boyfriend. He had even presented a printed copy to us and was quite proud of his work.

    One day, security came to our work area and escorted him out of the area. I never knew for certain what illegal activity that he had committed. However, I had heard through rumor that it was some sort of banking fraud. I had also heard that the individual in question had made a suicide threat. I just hope that he is physically alright and that he has since sought psychiatric help for his mental problems.

    Although many brilliant people in the past have been eccentric and a unique personality can be a pleasurable companion in the work place, I believe that committing illegal offenses against your company is morally wrong and not a very intelligent thing to do. Something of that nature can follow a person for the rest of their lives.

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