Working With Difficult People

I don't why I felt so compelled to write this post today but I hope it helps a lot of you. This post mainly goes to students on internships, graduates entering grad programmes but can apply to anyone in the work place. Working with 'difficult' people is part and parcel of life - I mean why should we expect everyone's going to be all lovely in the workplace when that's not the case in reality? But the question is always how to deal best with those people who seem to just dislike you for no reason.

 

1) My first and most important lesson is one I learnt from my parents/Joel Osteen. It's quite simple. Not everyone's going to like you. For some this may be hard to deal with as we all would like to be accepted by our colleagues. It makes sense, a happy team is an efficient one - it makes coming to work more pleasant. But knowing how different people are, it's possible that you can scratch people purely by being yourself! As frustrating as this may be, if someone dislikes you for no apparent reason, carry on doing your job well and steer clear of unnecessary conversation whilst keeping it professional. Kill them with kindness is a term which I try and apply myself, that way only that person will look ridiculous and you maintain your dignity.

 

2)The second lesson is whilst you're new, always keep on the safe side. This means that you don't want to tread on anyone's toes when people don't know you that well. This doesn't mean taking unnecessary crap from anyone, it means simply handling your situation respectfully and not getting other people involved. i.e don't go ranting to another colleague 'whys our manager such a hard headed cow'. Keep things simple and professional, and if there's a need to escalate things follow protocol. If you need to vent let's keep it out of the workplace.

 

3)My final lesson is know what options are available to you. If a person is being too difficult to the point where it's distracting your work, your progress or just bringing you down, you do NOT have to take it just because you're an intern/newbie in the office. If you're feeling the person is approachable, take them outside and have a quick work - let them know you're feeling uncomfortable or check if there's anything you've done to upset them. This approach isn't too confrontational and means it can be resolved quickly. However, sometimes confronting the person could be an obvious no no. In this case ask another colleague or manager for a confidential word on what can be done. At KPMG we have a confidential hotline to discuss such matters and there's probably a similar service at many other firms.

 

At the end of the day, working with people we dislike or who dislike us happens. Take it as an opportunity to grow, adjust and learn about ourselves as well as other people.