When it comes to dealing with difficult people in life, we often try to prepare for the worst and make a plan of attack. The common attitude is, “Oh no! I have a problem; how do I fix it?”

Handling troublesome colleagues in the workplace can have its own set of unique challenges – projects, people and processes can become affected, not to mention your own sense of well-being and job enjoyment.

Is it possible to have a “battle plan” for dealing with colleagues and create a beneficial outcome for all without turning the workplace into a war-zone? Thankfully, yes. With some simple tactics and a shift in perspective, you can turn the tables on difficult colleagues and have more ease among your business relationships.

Don’t doubt yourself or take it personally

A colleague going out of their way to fight you can be very disconcerting. When I first experienced it myself, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. This person would be nice one moment, and nasty the next. I received accusations of being competitive, copying work, not being as good as I thought I was, or at other times being totally dismissed or ignored. I was confused, and my first thought was wondering what I’d done wrong and what I needed to do to fix it and make it okay.

Then I learned this “mantra”: it’s not personal. I’d been seeing myself as the cause of their actions, but I began to notice that it wasn’t about me at all, so it made sense that my efforts to appease this person weren’t working either. Another hot tip is this: people tend to accuse you of what they are doing, not what you are doing.

So, when I listened to the accusations from my co-worker with impartial ears, it gave me information about what was going on for them: I began to see it was them choosing to compete and feeling less capable at their job. They were attempting to invalidate me so that they could feel better about themselves.

When I stopped taking it personally or trying to see how I was the cause of the problem, I was able to be more aware of the situation as it really was and choose not to get caught up emotionally in their choices and insecurities.

Replace reaction, anger and upset with gratitude

In the face of another’s unkindness, it is easy to react with upset or anger and make judgments: people shouldn’t act this way in a professional situation; it’s wrong; if only they would stop, change, see things from your point of view. Rather than conclude, expect or hope that things should be different – what if you could dispense with all of that and have gratitude instead?

This may seem difficult at first, but every judgment about right or wrong that we make, whether we direct it at ourselves or another person, eliminates our sense of choices and makes us powerless. You can argue, “Well, we should be respectful of one another,” and yes of course, wouldn’t that be nice if everyone did that? But a more pragmatic attitude would be to acknowledge, “Okay, this is what this person is choosing at the moment. What else is possible and what choices do I have I haven’t considered?”

Gratitude and judgement cannot exist next to each other, so gratitude puts you back in charge, with a clearer head and ability to act beyond just reaction. What can you be grateful for about this person and the situation? If you did not view them as a problem, what contribution could they be? What advantages could this situation present you? Every problem has a possibility attached to it, if you are willing to take out the judgment and look for the “silver lining”.

Acknowledge what is different about you

Difficult colleagues are often the ones that have not created or accomplished what you have or do not have the same sense of joy, fun, ease in life and work that you do. They may be attracted to conflict with you precisely because you are different. It’s not the nicest thing to acknowledge, but many people look to the strong, different and unique ones to try and get them down. This may not make sense to you, because you are probably someone who becomes inspired by another person achieving greatness. Not everyone functions this way, and the ones who don’t desire for you to be successful will attempt to bring you down and keep you small, so they can stay comfortable.

If you are finding this hard to see what’s so different about you, maybe it’s time to ask yourself: what is the strength I have that I haven’t acknowledged? What is different about me that I have not been willing to see?

When I started to look closer at what I was that was different to those around me, I realized that I was a lot happier than most people, I had more fun than most people, and I enjoyed my job more than most people. I could find the benefit in every situation, and this was very annoying for my colleague! Recognizing that I was not wrong, just different, was a blessing because I was able to turn things around and instead of being upset, I could just be myself and laugh when others tried to make my life miserable.

Be creative, not combative

When you acknowledge someone’s agenda for making your life difficult, without judging it or feeling the need to fight it, they become quite predictable and easy to read. Be grateful for all the information they give you and use it to your advantage. This may sound manipulative and in truth – it is! Manipulate simply means “to handle in a skillful manner.” Ask, “What does this person need and how do they need to be handled in order to be willing to contribute to with ease?” For example, if you know they love praise from their manager, you could say, “Can you help? The boss was so grateful for you helping him last month.” If you are willing to be creative and deliver what they need to hear, without a point of view, you will be surprised at what can change.

 

You don’t have to go to war with problematic coworkers to improve things. If you end the battle within you – eliminate judgment, have gratitude, ask questions, be creative and most of all, have fun being you – you will begin to realize that nothing and no one can make you unhappy or stop you from living your life the way you desire.


After completing her social work studies in Vienna, Doris Schachenhofer worked with children, homeless people, delinquent teenagers and prisoners transitioning back into the real world. Today she travels the world teaching and supporting people to be more of themselves. Her Being You classes are delivered in both live and online settings. Follow Doris here and on Instagram.


Giving anything less than positive feedback to anyone at all can be intimidating. Giving feedback to a boss is another story entirely; naturally it feels risky. Nobody wants to jeopardise their position or damage working relationships – if they can help it.

However, there are times when it becomes necessary to give feedback to your boss. Perhaps your boss has requested it, in which case there’s no getting out of it. It might be that your situation has become so uncomfortable that you’ll want to leave unless change happens.

Regardless of the reason for your constructive feedback, how you deliver that feedback is everything. The below feedback methods will bring about the best possible outcome:

Consider the reasons for the feedback

Are you feeding back for your own reasons, or has your boss asked for this feedback? Dependent on the circumstances, the conversation may happen quite differently. If your boss has asked for feedback, there is probably a specific reason for that. Perhaps your boss wants to know how all employees feel about their management of a certain project.

In this case, it’s not a good time to impart all of your concerns about their timekeeping or moods. If those things are a real issue for you, a separate meeting at a later date may be required. Find out the reasons for the feedback request and ask for specific areas to feedback on. Then address those areas carefully using the methods coming up below.

If the feedback is something you’re giving for personal reasons, remember that your boss isn’t going to be expecting this. Unless they have the skin of a rhino, the chances are your feedback could put them on the back foot. The main difference is that when your boss asks for feedback, they’re expecting something specific; they may also be better prepared to receive your opinions.

Consider the validity of what you’re saying

This requires self-honesty. Do you have a genuinely good reason for giving your boss this feedback? If you dig deep and find that truthfully, it’s a personality clash and you just have quite different ways of approaching situations, it might not be worth saying anything.

Your feedback may come across as a character assassination, which won’t do wonders for your working relationship, whatever state it is currently in. However, if you feel that your boss is making poor decisions to the detriment of your project or company, you probably have a duty to discuss it.

It’s important to remember that your boss is in this role because of their skills, experience and qualifications. Although they may be doing things differently than you would, they got the job. It helps to keep this in mind, as it’s quite possible that they know things you don’t. If you don’t have the full picture, you may be joining the dots incorrectly.

Stick to what’s most important

If you have decided that your reasons for feedback are worthy, it’s time to decide on which things you’re going to talk about. You may have a list of ten different things that you don’t like about your boss’ behaviour or approach. Know that bringing too many issues to the table at once is a bad idea.

Landing a large number of issues on somebody in one hit is probably going to wind them. You may find that they stop listening after the first three points, rejecting the most important points because they feel you’ve come at them with a laundry list of errors they’ve made.

Boil your issues down to the most crucial points. What is causing the most discomfort or disharmony for you or your team? Which things have had the most negative impact on your role or project? Avoid anything that may come across as ‘niggly’ or petty. Prioritising carefully is crucial to the success of your conversation.

Prepare for your meeting

Once you’ve decided on the most crucial points you want to discuss, write them down in a bulleted list of points you want to make. Improvising is a bad idea; your emotions might start to drive the conversation, or you might forget crucial points if your boss distracts you with their responses.

It’s easy to feel that you know exactly what you want to say, but when challenged or faced with an emotional response, you may be caught off guard. Make sure your notes only include what you decided was most important and don’t deviate from that.

At the top of your notes, prepare a little positive feedback to start with. Nobody enjoys being criticized, so it always helps to let your boss know what you appreciate about them before you go into the issues. This way they will be more receptive to what they can do better.

Stick to the facts

It’s imperative to offer observations, facts, and examples. Dumping your feelings and opinions on someone without rational explanation behind them won’t garner much understanding – it will feel like a rant.

Let’s imagine your boss somehow undermined you with a client you were making good progress with. Your client was about to sign a deal, and pulled out after your boss’ input. Prepare the evidence that your client was ready to sign, and any communications that demonstrate the reasons for their change of heart.

You may be upset about this, with reason, but telling your boss that they “always undermine you”, “never consider your efforts”, etc. is not going to get you far. Inquiring rather than accusing makes a world of difference. You may genuinely feel upset, but your boss needs to see what it is they’ve actually done to cause it.

Be positive, respectful and compassionate

Let your boss know that you appreciate the opportunity to discuss your thoughts.  When you deliver your perspective in a considerate way, your boss won’t feel defensive. If you come across as caring for not only your own role and wellbeing, but also that of your boss and the company as a whole, they’ll be more receptive.

When you deliver one of your points and back it up with evidence, give them a chance to respond. Listen to what they have to say and show understanding for their perspective. Remember that your boss is your boss for a reason, and it won’t help to undermine their authority.

Keep in mind that your boss wasn’t going out of their way to upset you – they were probably unaware of the effect they were having. It could be that your boss was having personal issues that impacted their performance or decision-making.

Lastly, allow for some processing time. Your boss may come back to you later with deeper understanding. People need time to process criticism; it’s often hard to take and needs some consideration before they can see it from your point of view. Be open to (and encourage) reciprocation, as there may be some constructive feedback you could benefit from too.


Daniel Ross is part of the marketing team at Roubler.com.au — a scheduling and payroll software platform founded in Australia. Their mission is to change the way the world manages its workforces.


The connections you make in the workplace, by allowing people to get to know you, can open up opportunities years down the track. Building strong friendships in the workplace can be some of the best networking you can do. Developing friendships within the company (i.e. by getting to know people in different areas of the company, or by getting to know some of the managers in your area of expertise) could help you advance through the ranks. However, during day to day activities , we may not be thinking about this because we’re just trying to get our jobs done.

Remember, networking is all about connecting and sharing with others. It’s about getting to know people and have more meaningful relationships. It’s not about getting to meet lots of new people, but rather getting to know the ones who you have already met better.

Developing friendships in the working environment is the perfect way to make connections

Your aim to develop friendships in the working environment may be focused on just getting to know people and becoming friends, without any other intentions. However, this is a perfect environment to make connections, build friendships and really get to know people in your workplace. Since, the people in your workplace share the same industry, these connections may become really valuable years later.

Building a friendship with people you know takes time to build the connection. Try making a list of 90 workplace connections. You contact about 3 per day – perhaps giving an introduction between two individuals with similar interests or perhaps they are interested in the same topic at work. You can send a relevant article or share some compassion – perhaps congratulate them on a project are working on or share with them your findings on a project you might be working on.

Networking is all about connecting and sharing with others

Your list may not number 90, but just once a month, make a connection with the people on your list. They will be more aware of you, and month by month, they’ll get to know you a bit more. Now, if you see them in the office, you have something to talk about,  and you will start to break down any barriers.

Direct Outreach for higher levels of management

The second approach you can consider is developing friendships with people in higher levels of management – these are people you don’t know but would like to. This type of activity is described as “direct outreach”. This is building awareness of yourself with influential people. In BookYourselfSolid®, you create a list of 20 people who you would like to know but don’t know.

In the workplace, you may be able to get someone to introduce you, then you work at keeping and building the connection. You don’t want to send them unnecessary emails – that’s just spam. You need to do your homework , find out what they are interested in then share items in a considered way. With your Outreach, you want to be valuable, individualised , targeted and legitimate. Do your homework and find out as much as you can about what interests these people. Remember , if its not been asked for and it doesn’t grab there attention, then it will be thought as spam.

One great way is to have an after hours activity, like Touch Football or Basketball.  You can invite people in the workplace along – this is a perfect way to break down barriers on a social event and have people get to know you, outside of the office environment.

You need to do your homework , find out what they are interested in then share items in a considered way

Reach out on a regular basis

Just reach out to one person a day monthly – if you choose senior executives that are people who are influential, these people may be able to give you support in getting your next role. You need to identify who will be best at supporting you in your workplace, find some common ground then contact them once a month adding some value. Once you know them well enough you can transfer them to your list of 90.

The more you get to know people in your workplace – building stronger relationships – the more they will be able to support you with advancement and even getting outside jobs into the future. You want to stay front of mind, then when the time is right , your diligent work with networking and reaching out to senior management – will make a high for your career.

Featured Photo credit: chichacha / Foter / CC BY

 

Adrienne McLean Corporate shots 012_edited-5Adrienne McLean
Adrienne McLean is the Founder of The Speakers Practice, which offers Presentation Skills training program for business people, individuals, teenagers and groups. Adrienne is an Internationally Accredited SpeakersTrainingCamp Instructor and is a Distinguished Toastmaster. Adrienne has studied marketing with Michael Port the author of the Top Business and Marketing book – BookYourselfSolid.

Adrienne, with her experience of growing up in a family business, working in the corporate and small business sector plus building her own business, gives an enthusiastic and practical approach to the benefits of presentation skills development, learning to promote yourself and building a successful business.  She is a regular presenter, blogger and a contributing author in four recent business publications.

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