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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 January 13, 2020

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical Signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental Signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Desire for an Increase of Salary

The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

Overnight Decision

Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

Rejected for a Promotion

I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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Bored at Work

Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

How to Make a Career Change Successfully

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a Career Plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh Your Options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

    A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

    4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

    A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

    • What is required to be successful in the role?
    • What certification or educational development is needed?
    • What are the challenges of the role?
    • Is there potential for career advancement?

    A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

    Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    5. Research Salary

    Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

    It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

    6. Be Realistic

    If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

    For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

    Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

    7. Volunteer First

    A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

    Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

    Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

    8. Prepare Your Career Tools

    I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

    • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
    • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
    • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
    • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

    Bottom Line

    It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

    Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

    More About Career Change

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
    [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
    [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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