Let’s face it, we all have different personalities. Imagine a world filled up with people of similar behavior. The world to an extent would have been boring. Variety is the spice of life! Oh yeah, I said that, despite how old that phrase may be. So if the world has people of different behaviors, religion, culture and so on, it inevitably means that the workplace will have people with varying personalities.
Most corporations these days boast of having a diverse workforce which is commendable. This entails having to learn to work with people of various backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. It also includes learning to deal with seemingly difficult people and having to develop yourself in the long run.
In that context, please remember that this co-worker that appears to be difficult may not necessarily believe that he/ she exhibits such tendencies. The person may not just realize how you view things from your end. Although, I admit that sometimes the opposite may be the case.
Whatever the situation, you still have to work with that person. You may very well have to complete projects closely. If you decide to leave your current job and opt for another, simply because you cannot work with the person for whatever reason, what is the guarantee that at your next job you wouldn’t face another difficult person?
Let’s consider some reasons why your co-worker may appear difficult;
- You just don’t like the person or you can’t stand him/ her
- You find it difficult to work together
- He/ she doesn’t buy your ideas or criticizes your work
- He/ she is unfriendly and unreceptive
- He/ She fails to keep commitments
There may be other reasons to feel that a co-worker is difficult to work with. So how do you work with such person daily? How do you pass information across in a productive manner? How do you retain your sanity at work? Bottom line, how do you manage the situation?
- Start with Yourself
It is always important to start out with asking yourself what the issues may be before exploring other options. Is communication the problem? Are you asking the right questions? Do you listen to him/ her or do you just hear? Listening and hearing are two entirely different things. You may not get along because you are not taking out time to absorb the information he/ she is passing to you.
Does this co-worker react this way to just you? How do your colleagues view this person? Are you overreacting? Are you approachable? Taking out time to examine yourself should be the very first step to help you work better with your co-worker.
You should also think about whether you have contributed to the difficulty. Did you act irrationally at some point, instead of applying alternative means to the situation? The answers to these questions will help you create new ways to solve subsequent issues.
- Imagine you were Him/ Her
This kind of relates to the first point of starting out with yourself. Try to evaluate and understand your co-worker’s personality and act like you would do if you were him/ her. It could be that you are the difficult person to him/ her and not the other way around. Try to be empathetic. Doing this will help you realize where you may be going wrong. It may be that you lack patience on your part. Think of it this way; how should I react in this situation?
- Keep your Mind on the Goal
It can be easy to quickly divert your attention to the individual rather than your tasks. You may feel the urge to feel intimidated by this co-worker. Avoid doing this, rather, keep your task in mind. Try as much as possible to work with this person keeping in mind the important project you have to work on. This will eventually affect your career.
- Set Expectations
If you have to work with a difficult person for a short term, you may have to outline expectations early enough. This will help you work amicably with the person, bearing in mind what your tasks are in order to achieve organizational goals. Choose to see this as a form of division, split up the tasks so that you mutually agree on what each person is to do. This is a way of avoiding conflicts and yet working as a team.
- Talk to him/ her
Like I earlier discussed, it could be that this person hasn’t realized how you feel. Invite him/ her to a meeting and express your feelings. You want to ensure that you are relaxed while expressing your concerns. Also, avoid attacking the co-worker. Some matters are better addressed in person, in a mature manner. Try to stay calm and composed.
Here are things to keep in mind;
- Start the conversation with flattery
- Point out specifically the behavior
- State exactly what you want to be changed
- Observe non-verbal cues on your part and that of your co-worker
- Follow up; acknowledge change in behavior
- Speak to Someone He/ She Listens to
This should most likely be your last resort. In my previous article, I explained that there are some people who influence others positively. It could just be their charisma. Most likely, this “difficult” person may have someone he/she looks up to. You may take out time to discuss with this person your co-worker respects on your ongoing challenges and a better resolution strategy may spring up, depending on the personality of your co-worker.
Alternatively, you could speak with your human resources personnel at work to help you manage the situation.
Have you had to work with a difficult person? How did you manage the situation? I would love to hear from you.
All the best!