Challenging work relationships can raise stress levels and significantly lower your job performance—not to mention satisfaction. But you don’t have to settle for bullying, micromanaging, harmful gossiping, and garden-variety negativity. Make 2019 the year you take action to address difficulties with your boss, teammates, or subordinates.
It is possible to learn techniques to recognize and then constructively deal with difficult workplace personalities, notes Dr. Miriam Reiss in her AudioSolutionz webinar, “How to Handle Difficult Bosses, Employees, and Co-Workers.” In the session, Reiss shares real-life troublesome behavior examples and new, research-based strategies for effectively responding—while safeguarding your sanity.
Why You Must Take Action
When faced with a difficult boss or co-worker, you have three options: Settle for working in misery, get a new job, or confront the situation head on.
Option 1 is lose-lose. “Your situation won’t get better; left unaddressed, it usually gets worse,” according to a The Balance Careers article. It’s not a smart move to wait until you’re so frustrated you can’t think clearly. “It’s far better to address the difficult person early while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control,” the author explains.
Figure Out How You Want to Be Treated
Option 2 may not be an option. So you’re left with the wisest choice: Address the situation.
But if you want a positive outcome, tread carefully—and start with yourself.
Tip: “Try to disassociate others’ behavior from how you feel about yourself. This can be a tricky one, but learning to develop a thick skin and let things go is an invaluable skill in any area of life,” states a WorkAwesome article titled “Dealing With a Difficult Co-Worker 101.”
Also: Recognize what you realistically can and can’t stomach. “Listen to your intuition and if you feel uncomfortable about something, try and address it. You train people how to treat you,” notes the WorkAwesome article.
Use 5 Fix-It Strategies
Be systematic in setting a course of action to rectify a difficult situation. Of course, you still have to get your daily work done as well. So follow these steps to stay on top of your game and progress toward a solution:
- Remain calm: Don’t’ add to the problem by flying off the handle. “The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure; the less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation,” according to Psychology Today. When you feel your tension rise around the challenging employee, take a breather.
- Understand everyone is different: The workforce today is so diverse! From Baby boomers to Millennials, the generation gap alone is enough to create workplace friction and clashing personalities.
“For example, some of us are extroverts and like to brainstorm out loud, sharing our thoughts long before we’ve reached our conclusions. This can be annoying to introverts who may prefer a quieter environment where people don’t start to talk until they know what they want to say,” notes AARP.
Seek to understand the different personality types you work with as well as your own. AARP suggests using tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help you understand both what makes you and your co-workers tick.
- Document incidents. Whether you keep a handwritten journal or typed document, keep a log of the events that create friction in your work relationships. This is especially critical in situations where you feel threatened. In cases of bullying or harassment, you’ll need concrete examples to cite when you report the behavior. “You never know when you might need to communicate this information and it is essential that every detail of every incident be in your control,” affirms and Inc. article, “9 Ways for Employees to Deal With a Difficult Boss.”
- Go to HR. If you’re having a problem with your boss or co-worker, don’t gossip about it with other employees. Take the problem to someone who can actually help. “Whether you have a formal Human Resources department or just one person who supervises everyone, there should be someone who’s ‘in charge’ of employee peace-keeping,” states Very Well Mind. Report the negative behavior to that person—and when you do, bring documentation of specific events (not vague complaints), suggests Very Well Mind.
- Be persistent. Mustering up the courage to take action regarding a difficult working relationship is the first big step. Sometimes waiting is the next. “It isn’t likely that your difficult boss situation will change overnight, so be prepared for the long haul,” notes Psychology Today. You should remain persistent in calling out bad behavior, and putting your plan into action, the magazine suggests.
Difficult workplace relationships are a fact of professional life. So it’s critical to know how to take care of yourself and keep the negativity from impacting your own work and behaviors, affirms Dr. Miriam Reiss in her webinar, “How to Handle Difficult Bosses, Employees, and Co-Workers.”