Whatever industry you’re in, at whatever level, there’s no way to avoid working with difficult people.
Whether you’re managing them or working alongside them, there’s bound to be that person - or more than one! - who you really can’t get on with. This could be for any number of reasons - they’re stubborn, miserable, or maybe they refuse to do their share of the work.
They might be really bad at listening, or care more about impressing your boss than about doing a legitimately good job. You obviously want to be the best employee and person that you possibly can - even when Negative Nancy is making work life impossible.
There are ways you can tactfully and carefully sort those problems, making your life easier without alienating anyone in the workplace. Take a look at these tips for dealing with difficult colleagues and having an easier work life...
1. Deal with any issues ASAP
If you’ve noticed a problem, there is absolutely no merit to sitting around at home letting it fester! Confrontation is never easy, but if you want to move on from issues, you need to sort everything out as soon as they arise.
Take a few days to think about it and plan what your next move is, sure. But don’t ruminate on it for too long else it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Plus, the more you think about these things, the more peed off you’re likely to become. You’ll also risk blowing your top at the wrong moment and then your annoyance will turn into embarrassment and regret all too quickly.
See also: 5 tips for avoiding office drama
2. Don’t talk about it too much
When you’re working with difficult people, it can be tempting to chew everyone else’s ear off about how much they’re doing your head in. That’s understandable, and there’s nothing wrong with chatting to a few people that you trust every once in awhile in order to organise your thoughts and gain some perspective.
However, if you’re moaning constantly and dragging your coworkers into the kitchen to have a whine, you’re going to start to look like you’re the real troublemaker, and you won’t have a leg to stand on when you try and say that someone else is! Plus people don’t come to work to hear you gassing about your problems, so try to be positive and keep your bitching at bay.
See also: The art of people management
3. Figure out what you actually want before you confront them
Before you do confront the person you have an issue with, you need to make sure you know what you’re going to say. Write down a plan of how you’re going to go about it, and what you expect to get out of the confrontation.
Do you want them to pull their weight? To cheer up? To stop whining? To be less stubborn? Offer not only your complaints, but actual solutions and explain how you feel your relationship could improve.
Saying, “you’re annoying me”, and not offering any kind of solution won’t get you anywhere. Saying, “could we try this instead?” in a way that doesn’t make them want to punch you square in the face will help make sure they don’t feel attacked, and that they actually want to change for the good of the group.
4. If it doesn’t work, limit how much you work together
If they get offended that you had an issue or if they just don’t change at all, the best thing you can do is limit how much you work together. Chill your beans. You don’t have to quit or transfer roles... but you can try to go through other colleagues when you want to speak to them, or choose not to take them onto your team for projects if you have that power.
It’s not ideal, and you won’t be able to avoid them completely, but the more time you spend working on projects with people you do get on with, the better!
5. Chat to seniors about the issue
If having stern words and trying to avoid them doesn’t work, the only real option you have left is taking it to someone above you.
This might be your first port of call if the problem is really serious - like if you feel as though someone is actually bullying you. But for lesser issues you should probably wait until it gets worse before you go telling teacher! So put your apple down for now.
We get it though, at a certain point it might be the only option you have left. A senior staff member will have a bit more power in keeping you apart, may be able to solve the problem, and could even scare the troublemaker into working harder!
Just be careful not to go running to mummy with tiny irrelevant and niggly issues. It won’t be good for team morale and your boss may look on you as a bit of a tattletale. Pick your battles and you should get the most out of the team you work with.
If all else fails, do the British thing, grit your teeth, crack a smile and Keep Calm and Carry On… it’ll all be fine, we’re sure.
See also: online project management courses