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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 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

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