Is there someone at your workplace — a critical manager or a trouble-causing co-worker — who drives you crazy? Dealing with these difficult people can turn a great job into a nightmare, but don’t be discouraged. Here are some creative, mature and loving ways to deal with these difficult situations:
Make absolutely sure you aren’t the problem. Evaluate your own behavior objectively. Ask others to give you some feedback. Are you doing anything to contribute to the problem? Do you get offended too easily?
Look for the lesson. This experience can teach you something. What is it showing you about yourself? The easiest thing to change in this situation is you. Is there any way you could behave differently to improve this situation?
Don’t react impulsively. An emotional reaction when you are annoyed never produces the best results. Give it a little time to make sure you see the situation accurately. Don’t let the problem fester too long, though. It’s better to tackle the problem while it’s fresh than to dig up something that happened weeks ago.
Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. What is going on in their world? Are they dealing with a family issue, a divorce or health problems? Are they struggling with their job or clashing with the boss and taking it out on you?
Most bad behavior (though it may be directed at you) is not really about you.
Their bad behavior is usually an expression of their own inner state. The problem is usually about fear they are experiencing. See if you can identify what the real problem is. Is there anything you could do to help with or show compassion for that issue?
Be forgiving. Seek to understand and have compassion toward this person. Choose to see them as the same as you … a scared, struggling human being in process.
Your ego may be quick to make them the bad guy so you can be the good guy, but this is rarely accurate. Let go of the need to be right and try to ignore the problem as much as possible.
Stop talking about it. If you are talking about this difficult person with everyone who will listen, you are adding negative energy to the problem. Are you doing this to get validation or feel important? Consider focusing on finding solutions instead of complaining.
Treat them with respect and kindness even if they don’t deserve it. This is the best approach because they will never expect it! Kindness throws them off completely.
Nothing changes a negative situation faster than refusing to participate in it.
It takes two to fight.
Look for good and compliment them. Dig deep and find something in this person to appreciate. The more you thank them for good behavior, the more they will behave that way toward you. Kindness will make it very hard for them to treat you badly in the future.
If you decide you must have a conversation with this person about their behavior, follow these steps for best results:
1) Focus on the outcome you want. How can you create that outcome? Focus more on where you are going than where you are now with this person. Be solution-focused — not problem-focused.
2) Choose the right time. Make sure you can have a private and uninterrupted conversation.
3) Be calm. They can read your emotions and your energy. If you are angry or upset, they will get angry and defensive before the conversation even starts. Set your hurt feelings aside and focus on understanding them first.
4) Ask questions about how they feel and what they think about the situation. Listen to how they feel. Do not get defensive or upset about what they say. Validate their right to see and think the way they do. Be open to hearing some ways you could improve. Make sure they feel heard and understood before going to step 5.
5) Ask permission to share your solutions. Ask if they would be open to hearing your suggestions on ways to improve your working relationship. Focus on the positive as much as possible, but speak your truth.
You have more power to change this situation and this person than you think, but a scared, angry, victim mentality will rob you of that power. Your power comes by choosing to act in love, wisdom and maturity.
In other words, take the high road.
Handle yourself professionally, and if that doesn’t work, take the problem to a superior.
Tristen Loo, an expert in conflict resolution, says when you are having problems with a co-worker or employer, you should document everything. “This will become your main ammunition should a complaint ever be filed down the road.” He recommends only going to a superior as a last resort, but if you need documentation, you’ll have it.
Your ability to respond to these difficult situations maturely may even get you noticed at work. Management is always looking for people who can handle conflict with grace, and they are the people who get promoted.
Rudyard Kipling wrote, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you … yours is the earth and everything that's in it."
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.