Dealing with difficult colleagues

We’ve all been there. It starts early and young…. bullies. And then there’s arrogance and difficult attitudes and just overall uncompromising a$$holes. Life throws the full gambit of challenging personalities at us. After awhile, I learned that these people are everywhere. No matter where you go, you can never hide from them.

But what do you do when you come across a confronting/difficult/antagonistic/arrogant/etc colleague at work?

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Business Insider, June 2011: 9 Useful Strategies to Dealing with Difficult People at Work

  1. Be calm.
  2. Understand the person’s intentions.
  3. Get some perspective from others.
  4. Let the person know where you are coming from.
  5. Build a rapport.
  6. Treat the person with respect.
  7. Focus on what can be actioned upon.
  8. Ignore.
  9. Escalate to a higher authority for resolution.

Psychology Today, March 2015: 20 Expert Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People

  1. Listen
  2. Stay calm.
  3. Don’t judge.
  4. Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person. 
  5. Look for the hidden need.
  6. Look for others around you who might be able to help.
  7. Don’t demand compliance.
  8. Saying, “I understand,” usually makes things worse. 
  9. Avoid smiling, as this may look like you are mocking the person.
  10. Don’t act defensively.
  11. Don’t return anger with anger. 
  12. Don’t argue or try to convince the other person of anything.
  13. Saying, “I’m sorry,” or, “I’m going to try to fix this,” can go a long way toward defusing many situations.
  14. Set limits and boundaries.
  15. Trust your instincts.
  16. One response does not fit all.
  17. Debrief.
  18. Discharge your own stress.
  19. Give yourself credit for getting through an uncomfortable situation.

Psychology Today, September 2013: Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable & Difficult People.

  1. Keep Your Cool
  2. “Fly Like an Eagle”
  3. Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive
  4. Pick Your Battles
  5. Separate the Person From the Issue
  6. Put the Spotlight on Them
  7. Use Appropriate Humor
  8. Change from Following to Leading
  9. Confront Bullies (Safely)
  10. Set Consequence

Entrepreneur, March 2017: How Smart People Handle Difficult People

  1. They set limits.
  2. They rise above. 
  3. They stay aware of their emotions.
  4. They establish boundaries. 
  5. They don’t die in the fight.
  6. They don’t focus on problems — only solutions. 
  7. They don’t forget. 
  8. They squash negative self-talk.
  9. They get some sleep.
  10. They use their support system. 

I chose to stay calm. I was upset, but things needed to be handled at that moment. I called the person directly and gave other options of contacting me other than text. I closed the loop and asked if this person was having a tough day or had issues with me, but, they said they didn’t have an issue with me and that it was a technical error with poor cell phone signal. That seemed reasonable and rational to me. They noted my requests for other contact means. Life moved on. Maybe it won’t always be this easy, but I prefer to make direct contact with the person of interest and make sure I have the full story.

Image from Shutterstock

Additional resources:

Did your thoughts change from before? Ask yourself the question below:

What do you do when you come across a confronting/difficult/antagonistic/arrogant/etc colleague at work?

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Author: Kris

Grew up in a small Texas town. Heavily involved in extracurricular activities: piano, violin, dance (ballet/jazz/tap), tennis, horseback riding (english/western), taekwondo, basketball, soccer, volleyball, percussion, drumline, orchestra, band, mascot, pageants. I had the typical Tiger Mom upbringing. Went to college, medical school, residency, and fellowship. Amidst the ups and downs of life, allow me to share with you my an "ordinary" person who happens to be an MD.

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