Dealing with difficult coworkers? Some tips to help you manage

We all know what a sweetie pie you are, but other people? Not always! Here’s a new article by Dr. Diane Katz, president of The Working Circle and author of “Win At Work! The Everybody Wins Approach to Conflict Resolution” on dealing with folks in the workplace who like to make things a bit of a challenge.

Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

We have all worked with people that are troublesome – they challenge us on many levels. Difficult people test our confidence, our leadership skills, and certainly our patience.  Whether they are our boss or our coworker, we need not to take these people’s actions personally. Most important, we can’t let difficult people obstruct our ability to succeed

It is critical for leaders to maintain teams that work effectively. As a leader, you set the tone for your team. The larger the team, the more likely it will be that difficult people will be part of the chemistry. Adroit leaders learn how to channel the energy of tough professionals so that the team does not suffer.

Here are some specific examples of challenging people we come across, and how to best handle them.

Have you ever worked with “The Wet Blanket”?

No matter what anyone says, this person has something negative to say. If something is being introduced, this person tells you how it won’t work. If he gets a project, he complains that the deadlines are unrealistic. If these people have power (formal or informal), they take the wind out of any excitement there might be.

I remember Connor, who would sit at meetings and always present the negative view of topics. The group would then debate the merits of his negativity, thereby taking the group off course from the original topic. Wet Blankets have an uncanny ability to shift the energy from positive to negative in any situation, when they are allowed to have too much impact.

Here are some tips on dealing with these people:

  1. Listen to what they have to say and then go back on course – don’t let them take you on a negative track
  2. If what they have to say has merit, ask for a potential solution
  3. At an appropriate time, take them aside and let them know that they could be more effective if they expressed things in a more positive way

Unenthusiastic people can change their behavior (if not their outlook) when people around them don’t buy into their negativity. Stay in the solution!

The Micromanaging Boss

One of the questions I have asked many job applicants is, “What kind of manager drives you crazy?” Almost 100% of the responses included, “I don’t want to work for someone who is over my shoulder constantly.” Very few managers who micromanage realize what they are doing. They merely think that they are ensuring they get the results they want. Truth be told, treating teams with defined autonomy brings better results.

Micromanagers behave as they do out of insecurity. The trick in managing them is to help them to feel more secure!

How can you deal effectively with the micromanager? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Find out where their worries are and make certain that you keep them informed
  2. After you have a proven track record, ask for more autonomy and clarify exactly what you will do to ensure success as well as how you will keep your manager informed. Explain why you can do a better job with the increased freedom to operate. Also let your manager know that you can enhance his image if he shows more trust.
  3. If any errors occur, be sure that you are the first one to tell your boss, as well as how you problem-solved to fix things

People don’t leave jobs: they leave bosses that don’t treat them with professional respect. Don’t ever try to work around the micromanager. – Work in such a manner as to calm their concerns.

If you are a manager, and are wondering if you might be that micromanager, ask yourself: Are you afraid to go on vacation, fearing that something will go wrong? Or, do you think that nothing can be decided without you being around to provide the solution? If the answer to these questions is, “yes” you might just be micromanaging! Make sure that there are sufficient systems, training, and team decision-making installed so that your team can operate with independence.

General Guidelines for Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

Let’s face it – we don’t handpick all the people we work with. We can learn how to deal with difficult people if we follow some general guidelines:

  1. Don’t make issues personal – stay as objective as possible when defining the issue rather than blaming another person
  2. Be consistently assertive – whether you are comfortable or not, using assertive language is extremely powerful
  3. Deal directly, as often as possible, with the “offender.” When you do, use non-charged language – no blaming and speak just for yourself
  4. Hold everybody equally accountable for professional behavior – whether they are difficult or not
  5. Don’t let negative people hold too much power over you or over the team – keep their influence at bay

When I used to ride the subway in New York City, I noticed that the crazy people always got a seat. That is, figuratively speaking, what leaders often do at work! It is possible to effectively manage difficult people, whether they are our bosses or our coworkers. We spend more time at work than we do most other places in our life. We might as well have the most pleasant experience as possible.