8 Smart Ways to Deal with Difficult People at Work

By Niall Kennedy

At some point in your career, I assure you, you will come across difficult people at work. There maybe people who just don’t understand work dynamics or are culturally biased. It’s alright. However, at the end of the day, you need to know how to deal with difficult people; you’re their leader and your job is to keep aside all these differences and work with them to make your company grow.

How is that going to happen?

To start dealing with difficult people at work, your need to start by spotting difficult members on your team. Difficult people may be:

  • Sarcastic: Sarcasm helps most deal with their passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Silent:. Especially, when they need to speak their feelings out.
  • Over-expressive kind: In simple words, they speak anytime, anywhere.
  • Stubborn kind: They won’t do anything other than the streamlined work style he has.
  • Gossip lovers: They love spreading news/rumors about people.
  • Excuse givers: These members can get away with any task or issue. It’s easier for them to make excuses than to finish a task on time.

There are many more difficult kinds of people out there, but these encompass the most common types.

Difficult people can display their behavior in in multiple ways. It’s difficult to understand difficult people and deal with them, but it’s possible. Protect yourself from these negative people and effects. Do your bit and stop this attitude. Here’s how you can make that happen.

1. Set Your Limits

Negative people are always
bad news. They will never stop whining about their issues. Even if you come up
with a solution for them, they’ll just ignore it. These pity party lovers need
to know that there’s a limit to everything. Don’t feel pressured to listen to a
difficult member in your team. Understand that there is a fine line between
sympathizing and getting dragged into a conversation with intense negative

Avoid these difficult people by setting limits. Distance yourself from them and be professional. The best way to set limits is by being solution-oriented. Once you ask them how the problem will be fixed, they’ll either leave or just shut up.

2. Rise Above Negativity

Difficult people have the reputation for driving people around them crazy. To deal with these people, indifference is the key. Such irrational behavior will end the moment you stop responding to them. Don’t bother beating them in their own games. Emotional distance is going to keep you away from their chaos. Be factual and you’ll automatically rise above these difficult ones.

When you are emotionally
sound, you can learn how to stay calm and not respond to others’ trash talk.
With self- awareness, nobody can push your buttons. Don’t encourage derailed
emotions; instead, smile and walk out of the conversation when you know it’s

3. Establish Required Boundaries

Don’t be shy to do this. Boundaries help all, I assure you. Establish boundaries to help you think rationally. If you go with the flow, you’re going to find yourself in the difficult conversation with that annoying employee. Stick to your guns, keep boundaries and protect your mental and professional status.

4. Don’t Die in an Argument

Smart people know how
important life is. Deal with toxic people effectively by arguing the smart way.
This means, use the right words, be factual and don’t encourage nonsense in the
fight. Above all, you’ve got to keep your dignity. Be strong and let the
difficult person know how strong you are.

5. Be Solution-Oriented

Smart people never focus on problems; they’re solution-oriented. Be the solution-based member in your organization and focus on the positive. If a fixated, negative person comes to you with his problems, quit thinking. Let them do the talking; if you can take it, fine. If not, ask them what they’re going to do about the problem. There probably won’t be any answers. After that, move on and focus on what’s next.

6. Forgive, Don’t Forget

This is an unusual trick.
Studies have shown that if you keep key points from a conversation noted or
documented, it helps working on the issue again when it crops up. It’s almost
like picking it up where you left it. Documentation helps you forget and recall
issues whenever you wish to, keeping all of your brain focused and ready to
perform. When the difficult employee comes back with a similar issue, all you
need to do is show the document and confront him calmly. They’ll automatically
walk out of the cabin. Try it out!

7. Negative Self-Talk Must Be Discouraged

Yes, you need to talk about
how you are feeling and how you’re being treated by the difficult members in
your team. However, you need to make an attempt not to crib. Negative self-
talk is unnecessary and brings down morale. Don’t send yourself into an
emotional roller coaster because it’s hard to come out of it and you may turn
out to be one of them!

8. Use Your Support System

You cannot handle everything. This world works on teamwork. One man shows are the worst kind and very strenuous, too. Tap into your support system, but before that identify them and let them know that they’re important. Your support system will help you get insights and assistance whenever required.

New perspectives are always important; don’t overdo it, though. Find people who are mature and trustworthy — best combination ever.

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos

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Niall Kennedy is the Creative Director at ”Preferred Training Networks.” He has over 20 years of experience in Professional Development Industry. He has published 4 business books – “All Aboard the Brain Train,” “Healthy Leadership,“ “Errant Workplace Behaviours,” and “Hidden Observations.”

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