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10 Tips for Handling the Difficult People At Work

10 Tips for Handling the Difficult People At Work

Are you the type of person who is super hard on yourself and has a hard time in the workplace dealing with difficult people? Perhaps you WANT to be “more liked” and achieve greater success at work, but you aren’t overly happy about yourself in general or where you are in your life at this moment.

Bullying is quite common in the workplace. In fact, in a 2010 study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of the American workforce (or 53.5 million people) has directly experienced bullying or had “repeated mistreatment by one or more employees that takes the form of verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation or sabotage of work performance”, while an additional 15% said they have” witnessed bullying at work”. This has to stop!

What many do not know is that there are simple and effective techniques that can help you deal with these difficult personalities and help you give off a “certain type of energy” that will benefit both yourself and the people around you.

Here are 10 tips that will help you handle these difficult people at work.

1. Avoid The Guilt Trip

Bullies love asking extra favors and often guilt you into doing things for them. It is important to stand firm on your decisions and not get suckered into things that you feel aren’t right. For example, many employers bully their younger staff into doing extra work for them that no one is aware of, or asking them to work exceptionally long hours on a consistent basis.

You are not obliged to please him or her! Also, no matter what he or she says about you, you are not worthless or useless or the incapable worker that he or she wants to make you believe.

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2. Disarm Them With Kindness

Most bullies feed off of your frustration and weaknesses. They are enjoying fueling the fire inside of you and just waiting for you to explode. So why not confuse the heck out of them and make them feel powerless?! The best way is by saying something KIND in return. For example, you could say something like this: “is everything okay? You seem off today.”

Now, make sure you are being kind from an authentic place, not just acting kindly. There’s a huge difference. When we are trying to manipulate a situation or someone’s opinion about us by merely acting kind, we are coming from our ego. True kindness comes from our heart, not our head.  Authentic kindness is also consistent rather than something we turn on when it feels useful.

Try to remember what it was that made you like this individual in the first place (or think of something very nice they did for someone else). With just thinking those thoughts, you will exude a different energy and it will show on your face for sure. You’ll also start to notice that when you set the intention to extend kindness to everyone, you’ll get a lot more back in return. It may not be from the people that your ego may want; however, I assure you that the kinder you are, the more you will be the recipient of random acts of kindness.

3. Keep Conversations Simple and Clear

Don’t tell these people to much about your personal life or what’s going on with you, just keep things really simple and to the point. The more you open yourself up to people at work, the more they will have to use against you or attack your weak spots. Talk about other things (not your personal life) if you absolutely are in a situation where you have to chat (e.g. the hockey/soccer/football game, or the weather).

4. Self-Compassion

It has been scientifically proven that when people hear the term “self-compassion” they often assume it is synonymous with self-indulgence or self pity. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. Solid behavioral science research shows that, the higher one’s level of self-compassion, the lower one- level of self-pity (1,2). Also, self-compassion can also help you emanate greater self-confidence, which can be a great tool in the workplace.

Self compassion delivers and impressive array of benefits: decreased anxiety, depression and self-criticism. This therefore improves relationships and can help you achieve greater feelings of social connectedness and satisfaction with life; increases your ability to handle negative events, and even improves your immune system functioning (3). Self-compassion can be taught through yoga, and this ancient practice called Metta (discussed below and highly recommend).

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5. Stand Up Taller / Improve Your Posture

Posture and perception are everything! Our mother was right: Stop slouching. Instead of standing hunched, making yourself appear small and closed off, try opening up your stance, keeping your shoulders back and taking as much space as you need. One study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior even found that “assuming a ‘superhero stance’ actually reduces cortisol (the so-called stress hormone) and increases testosterone, a hormone that’s associated with power and strength” (4). Furthermore, numerous psychological studies have demonstrated that open postures convey a sense of the individual having power and closed postures convey a sense of the individual having little power (5).

6. Practice “Metta”

Simply put, Metta is the conscious practice of developing kind intentions toward all beings. Ever wonder why the highly charismatic Dalai Lama could radiate an incredible presence of warmth and caring, that even the most cold-hearted characters would melt in his presence? He ascribes much of his effect on people to Buddhist compassion practices, one of which is called Metta (translates to “loving kindness).

What was very interesting is that science actually shows it helps! For example, one study published in the NeuroReport found that when the brains of dedicated Metta practitioners were examined and tested by neuroscientists, significant differences came to light. Not only did they emit deeper brainwaves, but it was reported in the Psychological Bulletin that they were able to bounce back from stress scenarios much faster and that these “individuals showed particular enhancement in the left frontal lobe of their cortex, also referred to as the ‘happy region’ of the brain.” (6,7,8).

7. Say “Ouch” To Throw Them Off

Why say “ouch” after someone has said something extremely rude or is being a bully? Well, it actually makes that person look bad in front of other people and makes them more aware of the effect they are having on others. It almost makes them feel bad and speechless. I have seen people say this to others and it literally stops them in their tracks.

8. Be Firm When They Ask Things Of You

At all costs, remain firm on your decision and do not waver in your decision to reject the request no matter what they might say to persuade you to “help out”. If the situation turns ugly and the bully starts hurling verbal abuses at you, keep calm and politely tell them that you have to answer to your own superior and the tasks assigned to you are more urgent than the “favors” they are asking from you.

9. Keep Cool When They Are Freaking Out

By keeping your cool, it will be very obvious to the onlookers in the office that you are being more professional than the bully who might already be blowing their top and raising their voice at you. Do not feel intimidated or ashamed at this point, as that is exactly what the bully intended you to feel. Show that you are not affected by them and you will emerge the “winner” in your “negotiation” in saying “no” to the bully.

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10. Give Yourself 24 Hours To React

When someone is being irrational or bullying you, whether it be alone or in front of others, the last thing you should do is feed into it right there and then. For starters, you are in an extremely emotional/anxious state and not thinking logically or clearly. It is really best to give the whole thing 24 hours and respond to that person after the fact when you are in a better state of mind.

References

1. K.D. Neff and P. McGeehee, “Self-Compassion and Psychological Resilience among Adolescents and Young Adults,” Self and Identity 9 (2010): 225-240.

2. K.D. Neff, K.Kirkpatrick, and S.S. Rude, “Self-Compassion and Its Link to Adaptive Psychological Functioning,” Journal of Research in Personality 41 (2007): 139-154.

3. Ibid. Self-compassion deactivates the threat system (which generates feelings of fear, insecurity, and defensiveness) and activates the soothing system instead.

4. Carney D.R., Hall J.A., Smith LeBeau L. (2005). Beliefs about the nonverbal expression of social power. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 29, 105-123. 

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5. de Waal F. (1998). Chimpanzee politics: Power and sex among apes. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

6. T.Barnhofer, D. Duggan, C.Crane, S. Hepburn, M.J. Fennel, and J.M. Williams, “Effects of Meditation on Frontal Alpha-Asymmetry in Previously Suicidal Individuals,” NeuroReport 18, no. 7 (2007): 709-712.

7. B.R. Cahn and J.Polich, “Meditation States and Traits: EEF, ERP, and Neuroimaging Studies,” Pychological Bulletin 132, no. 2 (2006): 180-211.

8. G. Feldman, J.Greeson, and J. Senville, “Differential Effects of Mindful Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, and Loving-Kindness Meditation on Decentering and Negative Reaction to Repetitive Thoughts,” Behaviour Research and Therapy 48, no. 10 (2010): 1002-1011

Featured photo credit: Handling Difficult People At Work via psychcentral.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

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