Dont Let Difficult People Derail Your Career
Unless you are among the luckiest people in the world, or you are totally free of all relationships in the real world, you have to cope with difficult people in the course of your work.
Difficult people are everywhere. Some are habitually late for work. Customers are
often rude. Co-workers can be abusive and uncooperative as they guard their turf.
Others may goof off leaving you to pick up the slack. There are bosses who
consistently make unreasonable demands and never have a kind word to say.
"Don't waste your time searching for Utopia where there are no difficult people. The
wise, truly ambitious careerist, spends his or her time figuring out how to manage
these relationships so that they don't become roadblocks to personal progress and
success for the organization," says Ramon Greenwood, senior career counselor at
Common Sense At Work.
CAREER BLOCKERS COME IN SEVEN FORMS
In his book, Coping With Difficult People, Dr. Robert M. Bramson names seven basic
patterns of difficult behavior:
1. Hostile-Aggressive: The bullies, walking time bombs, who throw tantrums
and try to "muscle" their way through.
2. Complainers: They gripe incessantly, but never try to make things better.
3. Silent and Unresponsive: They only answer, "yeah," "nope," or just grunt and
4. Super-Agreeables: Very likable, outgoing people who will agree to anything, but
rarely produce what they promise.
5. Negativists: For them, "It won't work, it's impossible." They are always
complaining; always ready to criticize everything about the job; always gossiping.
6. Know-It-All Experts: These are superior types who want you to know how smart
they are and to realize how incompetent you are.
7. Indecisives: They wait for someone else to make the decisions; if they do have to
decide, they want to wait until everything is perfect. If things go wrong, someone
else is at fault.
TEN WAYS TO DEAL WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE
Here are 10 common sense suggestions that should help in dealing with these
1. Recognize you are not "just being negative and difficult" yourself when you
acknowledge the reality that the world is brim full of difficult people.
2. Keep your eyes on your personal goals. Don't let hard-to-get-along-with people
become a personal issue. Put them in the proper perspective. They are not your
personal problem unless they impede your progress.
3. You don't have to like a person to get along with him or her. Working
relationships are not like marriages. They are transient connections in the process
of reaching your objective.
4. Recognize you can be difficult, too.
5. Try to understand why difficult people are difficult. Are they always hard to get
along with, or just on those "bad days" everyone, including you, has?
Could it be they are just different? Understand that what may be seen as normal
behavior by some, could be outrageous in another's view. Salesmen often find
accountants too difficult when they are finicky about numbers. On the other hand,
CPA's may find salesmen, with their aggressive personalities and "big picture" views,
hard to get along with.
6. Be big enough to accommodate with the difficult person, up to a point, so
long as they don't stymie you. Let the difficult person run his course.
7. When you do have to butt heads, be firm. Don't argue. Don't get personal. State
your case and move on. Be ready to let the difficult person back off the limb he has
gone out on.
8. Try to ignore the person and the situation, especially if you are dealing with
a certifiable "basket case." Maintain as much distance - physically, organizationally
and emotionally - as possible between yourself and the source of difficulty.
9. However, try as you might, there may come a time when it makes common sense
to recognize that some relationships are too difficult to live with. Go to your boss,
explain the situation and ask him to resolve it by moving you to another position
away from the trouble-maker or by correcting or removing that person. Keep in
mind this can backfire unless you are clearly in the right.
Go to your boss, explain the situation and ask him to resolve it by moving you to
another position away from the trouble-maker or by correcting or removing that
person. Keep in mind this can backfire unless you are clearly in the right.
10. Finally, if you have made your best effort along the lines discussed here and the
difficulty still exists and it is hurting your personal life and career, you have but one
choice. Learn to live with it, or leave for another position.
Keep in mind, however, there will be difficult people wherever you go. You'll have
to deal with them or surrender.
Ramon Greenwood is former senior vice president of American Express; a
professional director for various businesses; a consultant; a published author of
career related books and a syndicated column. Senior career counselor for