How best to deal with difficult people in the workplace

The workplace environment in Australia is already stacked with easy stressors, bound to make us feel anxious and annoyed

The workplace environment in Australia  is already stacked with easy stressors, bound to make us feel anxious and annoyed. Firstly, we’re plucked from our comfy homes, far too early in the morning, only to sit somewhere and do something we may or may not want to be doing, very likely for a paycheck we feel doesn’t do us justice. So when we add another stressor – like dealing with a difficult work colleague – into the equation, it’s all we can do to not blowup and have a meltdown. Here are some conflict resolution tips designed to help Australians and New Zealanders deal with a difficult person at work.  Question your automatic defensive reactions. When dealing with a difficult person at work, our immediate urge (more often than not) is to lash out in self defense. Sure, not everyone falls into that trap, but it’s actually wired into our minds. Back as cavemen (and thereabouts), our status was linked to our chances of surviving or not. These days, that’s not the case, so we have to remind ourselves that the anger set forth by our difficult colleague does not diminish our own safety or personal standing. Remain rational during confrontations. This speaks directly to your ability to keep in check your defensive reactions. By reminding yourself that your status (and security) are not at stake, you can then take the time to ask your confronter what their specific issue is. At this point, be prepared to hear a rant. Agree with your confronter. From this rant you need to find at least one kernel of truth in the anger, and agree with your confronter. This does two things. Firstly, it helps to justify the anger that your confronter is feeling, but it also helps you battle your reactionary desire to become self-defensive, because you’ve found some truth in the madness. Ask for feedback. Again, this gives your confronter some power and leeway. After you acknowledge at least one kernel of truth, ask for feedback on how this issue can be handled. For example, let’s say that a colleague at work blows up at you because he thinks you mishandled a report. Your response might be: “Yeah, you’re right. The way I filed that report can be confusing. How would you file the report to make it more transparent?” Keep asking. Mr. Socrates used a method of question-asking to help people come to their own conclusions. Without coming across as a two-year-old playing the “Why” game, continue to employ the socratic method of question asking to not only help your confronter come to his own conclusion, but also to help you resist the urge to try to win an argument.

Difficult people and why they’re difficult – solutions for New Zealand and Australia

We often only see things through our own eyes (makes sense, of course), but fail to see why people might be “difficult” to work with. Perhaps the difficult colleague you try to avoid is under severe stress due to workload, poor pay, family issues or something else. By attempting to be empathic toward the what-ifs of a given situation, we’re more apt to avoid labels such as “difficult person” and more likely to try and be understanding of situations. This, of course, is easier said than done, but consider this: at some point in your life, you likely have been considered a difficult person to work/live/be with. Surprised? That’s because we’re more than just simple labels, and even the people in our office deserve a bit more than a one sentence descriptor. Photo credit: