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5 Tips For Working With Difficult People


Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re a seasoned pro, you’ve probably worked with someone who made your job difficult.

On Think, Krys Boyd talked with management consultant Amy Cooper Hakim about dealing with problem co-workers in the workplace. She’s the author of “Working with Difficult People: Handling the Ten Types of Problem People Without Losing Your Mind.

The KERA Interview

1. Ask your co-worker what’s wrong:

“I had a boss many years ago, Mike. I one time had a personal situation, and I came into the office and I was obviously troubled, but I tried to put on that happy face. He walked into my office, closed the door, and he said, ‘OK Amy, tell me what’s going on. Do you want to go out to lunch today?’ And I’ll remember that day forever because it truly showed me that he cared. Now of course we have to remember that as a boss or a colleague sometimes it’s not appropriate to ask or to prod, but to offer an open ear if that person wants to share can be real effective.”   

2. Stroke their ego:

“Recognize the relationship that you are dealing with. Recognize how you can make that person feel important, feel powerful, yet still get what you want from them. It’s that win-win, or catch more flies with honey, any of those expressions, it’s true. If you are able to take your own ego out of the picture then you can more specifically give them what they need and still get what you want.”    

3. Let them talk:

“We all want to be heard. Period. And if we can take the emotional sting out of a bully’s words then sometimes just letting them speak gives them that feeling of empowerment, entitlement, and then they’re willing to let us speak. When you stand up to a bully, if it’s a fighting match, the bully is yelling, you’re yelling, you’re not going to get anywhere. But if you look the bully straight in the eye, after they say their piece, and if it’s insulting to you or about something you’ve done, it’s obviously not asked for. You can simply say, ‘Thank you. I didn’t ask for your opinion.’ And move on. Something as simple as that can stop the bully in its tracks, because the bully knows he or she has been heard, but then we are done.”

4. Know who your real friends are:  

“There is a question that you should ask. And that is would I be friends with this person outside of work? If I wouldn’t be friends with this person outside of work it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t socialize with them, but I may want to consider them what I like to call a ‘friendly’ instead of a friend. Someone you’re going to be friendly with. Someone you could be sociable with more detailed that an acquaintance. Maybe talk about what you did over the weekend, but you’re not going to share your deep dark secrets, and you’re sure not going to share something about an issue you have with someone else at work because what happens … people will unfortunately turn on us if it will benefit them.”  

5. Manage your manager

“How do you manage your manager? You let your manager know that you don’t need him to micromanage you. But you can say it in such a way, ‘Hey Johnny, I really appreciate your attention here. I know that you’re as invested in me doing this well, as am I. However, I work best when blank, blank, blank.’”