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How to Deal With the 7 Most Difficult People in the Workplace

Betsy Allen-Manning > blog > How to Deal With the 7 Most Difficult People in the Workplace
Difficult People-Betsy Allen-Manning - Best Motivational Speakers, Best Selling Author & Human Behavior Expert 2


No matter what we do or where we work, there will always be difficult people to deal with. How you are with handling them and resolving conflict on the outside will define your character inside. When I train leaders on how to manage difficult people, I always start by reminding them that the most difficult people often present the most growth opportunities. However, it helps if you are equipped to handle conflict resolution in the workplace by using strategies to deal with challenging personalities.

Here are some strategies on how to deal with difficult people.

1. The Whiner: “Hey you won the lottery!” “Yeah, but now I have to pay taxes on it.” The majority of the time this sour-faced individual whines because we allow them to. They complain…we listen, and we end up taking on their issues whether we want to or not. The goal with this person is to help them go from being a problem identifier…to a problem solver.

Solution: “The Two-Solution Method”. After they complain, simply ask them to come up with two solutions for their problem. If they truly want something changed, they’ll come up with a variety of solutions, and you’ve helped empower them to be solution-focused instead of problem-focused. If they don’t come up with solutions, you’ve at least let them know that complaining without resolution is no longer an option.

2. The Narcissist: “There is no ‘I’ in team but there is an ‘M’ and ‘E’ and that spells ME!” That’s the mentality of this individual. They can do no wrong, someone else is to blame for their mistakes, they manipulate the truth to get what they want and their way is the only way to get stuff done.

Solution: First make yourself aware of their blind spots. They tend to be overconfident, which means they’ll make mistakes, and when they do, that’s the best time to point it out. Second, know your details. If you’re going to challenge a narcissist for being in the wrong, you will need to have your facts in order. Working with difficult people, especially the narcissist, can present many challenges. If you feel it is beyond your capability, hand it over to your manager who needs to have a ‘conflict resolution’ conversation to bring them down from their pedestal. Click here to learn how leaders handle difficult conversations effectively and professionally. 

3. The Gossip: Gossip is like cancer…it kills team morale, and the longer it happens, the quicker your team’s trust will die. Gossip is never tolerated in a high performing environment and should not be tolerated in yours. Great leaders know that managing difficult people, like the gossip, is a must in order to maintain high morale and high-performance levels.

Solution: First, ignore them. Gossips live for sharing secrets, and if no one wants to hear their secrets, it won’t be fun anymore. Second, deter them by talking about something else. This says to them, “I don’t want to engage in your high school level of conversation.” Third, be transparent. Tell them flat out that you will not be a part of office chat and if they continue, you will report them.

4. The Bully: “Give me your lunch money punk!” This individual uses threats, insults, and anger to get their way. They do this for several reasons. 1. Fear. If they feel their ‘under par’ work is being questioned, they’ll lash out at someone who always performs well, out of fear for their job. 2. Power. They use their position or title to make others feel small so that they feel bigger.

Solution: Address your situation immediately. The longer you allow someone to bully you, the worse it will get, because they feel you’ve given them permission to walk all over you. Either tell them to stop face to face, or get H.R. involved and talk out a solution together. You are not alone in dealing with difficult people like the bully, and your H.R. department should be ready to back you up and help you handle them.

5. The Negaholic: The ‘Simon Cowells’ of the workplace never have anything positive to say. They hate their job, despise their boss, their co-workers annoy them, they’re never happy, always tired and they walk around throwing verbal daggers at everyone. They are addicted to negativity. If you’re not careful, this person will bring you down with them, because misery loves company.

Solution: Knowing how to work with difficult people in the Workplace will serve both you and your team, so with the negaholic, stop hanging out with them immediately. Negativity is like a cold. Once someone gets it, they spread it throughout the entire office. Put up your shield and deflect any negativity they throw your way. Team up with positive minded people instead. Together, you can be the stronger force and help turn the negaholics around.

6. The Critic: This person has such a high level of excellence and perfectionism that they love to criticize everyone else for their mistakes. Unfortunately, they don’t always take criticism well themselves. Dealing with difficult people at work, like the critic, is actually easier than you might think. Just take a lesson from the Japanese on this one! In Japanese culture, they’re taught to look at both sides of the story and ask if there is truth behind what is being said before they respond. This helps you to maintain higher levels of EQ-Emotional Intelligence. When it comes to feedback, start by asking if there really is room for improvement before jumping down someone’s throat. There may be a lesson to learn, even if it’s not said appropriately.

Solution: Speak LAST:

L=Listen first.

A=Ask questions to clarify and ask them to give the positive along with the negative next time.

S=Seek the lesson.

T=Take action & make changes.

7. The Passive-Aggressive: “I’m so glad we’re working together”, is what you hear from this person one moment and the next moment they’re completely ignoring you! When you ask what’s wrong they say, “Nothing. Everything is great!” Yet you know it’s not. They aren’t a bad person, they simply don’t know how to handle conflict, so conflict management skills are a must with this person.

Solution: First, be the thermostat, not the thermometer. Meaning, remain in control of your emotions and feelings so that you can get to the bottom line with them. If you get heated up, that will fuel their fire and give them a reason to be upset with you. Second, ask them to be honest and ensure them that it’s safe to share their feelings with you. Sometimes people need permission to say that they’re angry. Third, take responsibility for your part and ask them to take responsibility for theirs.

There you go! Seven challenging people and seven solutions on how to handle difficult people better.

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Betsy Allen-Manning

Leadership Speaker | Best Selling Author | Human Behavior Expert

Learn it & Live it:

1. Comment below on which of the 7 Most Difficult People in the workplace that you deal with the most. If you want to dive deeper into building deeper connections, improve your communication and develop successful relationships, go get a copy of my tip book, Win With People. where I walk you through 52 Keys to Connect & Communicate Successfully.


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