Last week I posted a blog about the types of ‘difficult’ people you may work with in an office. So I don’t leave you with all challenges and no solutions, below are recommendations that will hopefully help you navigate the various personalities of the people you work with so everyone stays on track.
Celestine Chua offers these nine strategies that you can practice. Many of her suggestions apply to situations where you share office space, but they also apply to virtual teams. While working remotely can reduce the time you actually engage with the person who pushes your buttons, you can also be challenged with not having as many opportunities to really understand where she is coming from. By applying these techniques and fostering relationships with online meetings and audio conference calls, you can have more productive, and dare I say successful, interactions.
1. Be calm
Losing your temper and flaring out at the other person typically isn’t the best way to get him/her to collaborate with you. Unless you know that anger will trigger the person into action and you are consciously using it as a strategy to move him, it is better to assume a calm persona.
2. Understand the person’s intentions
I’d like to believe that no one is difficult for the sake of being difficult. Even when it may seem that the person is just out to get you, there is always some underlying reason that is motivating her to act this way. Rarely is this motivation apparent. Try to identify the person’s trigger: What is making her act in this manner? What is stopping her from cooperating with you? How can you help to meet her needs and resolve the situation?
3. Get some perspective from others
In all likelihood, your colleagues, managers and friends must have experienced similar situations in some way or another. They will be able to see things from a different angle and offer a different take on the situation. Seek them out, share your story and listen to what they have to say. You might very well find some golden advice in amidst of the conversation.
4. Let the person know where you are coming from
One thing that has worked for me is to let the person know my intentions behind what I am doing. Sometimes, they are being resistant because they think that you are just being difficult with them. Letting them in on the reason behind your actions and the full background of what is happening will enable them to empathize with your situation. This lets them get them on-board much easier.
5. Build a rapport
With all the computers, emails and messaging systems, work sometimes turn into a mechanical process. Re-instill the human touch by connecting with your colleagues on a personal level. Go out with them for lunches or dinners. Get to know them as people, and not colleagues. Learn more about their hobbies, their family, their lives. Foster strong connections. These will go a long way in your work.
6. Treat the person with respect
No one likes to be treated as if he is stupid/incapable/incompetent. If you are going to treat the person with disrespect, it’s not going to be surprising if he treats you the same way as well. As the golden rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
7. Focus on what can be actioned upon
Sometimes, you may be put into hot soup by your difficult colleagues, such as not receiving a piece of work they promised to give or being wrongly held responsible for something you didn’t do. Whatever it is, acknowledge that the situation has already occurred. Rather than harp on what you cannot change, focus on the actionable steps you can take to forward yourself in the situation.
If you have already tried everything above and the person is still not being receptive, the best way might be to just ignore. After all, you have already done all that you can within your means. Get on with your daily tasks and interface with the person only where needed. Of course, this isn’t feasible in cases where the person plays a critical role in your work – which leads to the last tip.
9. Escalate to a higher authority for resolution
When all else fails, escalate to your manager. This is considered the trump card and shouldn’t be used unless you’ve completely exhausted your means. Sometimes, the only way to get someone moving is through the top-down approach, especially in bureaucratic organizations. Be careful not to exercise this option all the time as you wouldn’t want your manager to think that you are incapable of handling your own problems. I have done this several times in my previous job and I found it to be the most effective in moving people who just refuse to cooperate otherwise.
Try implementing one or more of these strategies with someone who challenges you. Come back and tell me how it worked.