How To Work With Difficult People

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Unless you work by yourself from home, you will most likely have to work with a difficult person. It’s estimated that up to 80% of workplace issues derive from tensions between co-workers. If you work with someone that gives you stress or affects your self-esteem, it will inevitably show in your work. Fortunately, there are ways you can deal with difficult people at your workplace in order to ensure a more comfortable work environment.  

It’s important that you learn how to deal with all types of people in order to keep morale high while staying productive. Psychologists encourage positive and open dialogue in order avoid problems and disputes. Research has also shown that the ability to control your emotions and improve work morale will help you have more success in your career. Being able to lead others to being more productive is an important quality that businesses look for. Here we will go over some critical tips that will help you learn how to work with difficult people.

  • Dealing With A Bully - Do you work with someone who often yells and insults you? Do you find yourself dreading going to work because there is someone who constantly criticizes you at work, talks over you in a meeting or takes credit for the work you’ve done? You are not alone. Over 54 million US workers have admitted to working with someone they felt was a bully. Several ways you can deal with this type of behavior includes setting limits on what you’ll tolerate, document their actions, confront them about their behavior and tell HR and management. If you don’t take a stand you are only encouraging the bully to continue their actions.

  • Set Ground Rules On What’s Acceptable To You - Whether it’s your boss or another co-worker, you need to set the ground rules of how you expect to be treated. You can’t always expect people to treat you the same way you treat others, so when you feel that you are being treated unfairly or in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, it is important that you speak up. For example, if you have a boss that often chastises you in front of your co-workers, let them know it’s unacceptable.

  • Dealing With Negative Coworkers - There are always employees that constantly complain about everything, and wallow in negativity. Whether their job sucks, the company doesn’t care about them or their boss always treats them unfairly, they always find something to moan about. Although it’s best to try and avoid people like this, it’s not always possible. First try to listen to them, and see if their complaints have any merits If you find that their concerns are not legitimate, tell them how you feel. If nothing changes, try your best not to be drawn into their negativity and spend as little time with them as possible.

  • Try To Listen - Sometimes people that are difficult to work with just want someone to vent to. Try to put yourself in their position and truly listen to their issues. Some tips that can help you be a better listener include making eye contact, clarifying and questions, mimicking their body language and paraphrasing some of their main points.

  • Make Sure You Are Being Heard - It is very frustrating when you feel like you are not being listened to or dismissed. It can make you feel worthless and prevent you from speaking up in the future. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself as many times as you need to. If you feel strongly about what you are saying, repeat it twice and then ask the other person to repeat what you said. If you don’t treat yourself seriously, neither will others.

  • Stay Calm - Whenever facing a difficult situation or person it’s always important that you stay calm. If you find yourself losing control, take a moment away from the situation to take a deep breath, even if that means having to go into another room for a few moments. The majority of top-performing professionals admit that being able to control and manage their emotions in difficult times have helped them advance in their careers.

  • Your Body Language - Your body language can have a great effect on a situation. If another person finds your body language as intimidating or confrontational, it will do little to defuse the situation. Use positive body and language, and if you find yourself in a heated situation with another co-worker, change the environment in order to change your body language into a more positive tone.

  • Create A Dialogue About Problems - Ignoring a problem will not make it go away, and it definitely will not get resolved. According to Psychologist Daniel Goleman, a threat to a person’s self-esteem can literally feel like a threat to their survival. By creating a dialogue, everyone has the opportunity to speak their mind and be heard. If you don’t like something, instead of telling them how to fix it, simply communicate your point of view so the other person can understand where you are coming from.

  • Acknowledge Positive Changes - People are used to hearing about all the mistakes they are making or how they can improve, but focusing on positive change can help them keep up the trend. According to a Gallup survey, the majority of employees whose supervisors focused on their strengths instead of their weaknesses were more engaged at work. If you notice someone make an effort to change a negative behavior, make sure you let them know that you appreciate it and how it is impacting the workplace.

  • Understand Expectations - A major issue that causes problems at work is a lack of understanding of what expectations each person has, which can cause resentment. In order to avoid frustrations, make sure everyone is on the same page as far as the expectations are. You can do that by first asking them what their expectations are, and then sharing your expectations. When you both come to an agreement, make sure to document it and record the agreed commitments so there is no misunderstanding in the future.

  • Choose Your Battles - Being in a dispute with a co-worker not only has a negative effect on you and the other person, but also affects others who work with you. This can create an uncomfortable work environment, and bring morale down. Not everything has to lead to a dispute. Pick your battles based on what’s important to the company. Deal with the most crucial first, and set up a plan for the rest.

Working with a difficult person is inevitable so learning how to deal with them can make the difference in how much success you have at work. How you deal with a difficult person can also say a lot about your self-confidence, self-esteem and your professional courage. By ignoring the problem, you are allowing it to grow and possibly affect others you work with, creating an undesirable work environment with low morale.

Learning how to deal with difficult people you work with will not only improve the environment, but it will help you learn how to control your emotions and develop your leadership skills. If it is something you feel you cannot handle, them make sure to get management and HR involved.

If you’ve ever had an experience working with a difficult person and would like to share your experience with other freelancers, please leave your comments below.

Posted 13 November, 2017


Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for She is currently based in Sydney.

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