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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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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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