Dealing with difficult people in school or at workChen Wan Lim
It is inevitable to have difficult colleagues in your workplace. They can be your superiors, peers, subordinates, clients and business partners. However, because these people have a professional working relationship with you, how do you actually deal with these situations in a professional manner? Even in school, you are bound to have difficult lecturers who are adamant not to accept your explanation on a case study or you have a team member who just isn’t very participative in group projects. Without putting your career and your studies in jeopardy, these are some ways you can deal with difficult people:
1. Identifying and defining ‘difficult people’
Firstly, you will need to properly identify and define who these difficult people really are. If a person merely challenges your opinion by stating facts and by putting forth a valid argument, then that person might not be a difficult person. However, if that person is constantly against everything you say and simply finds any opportunity to go against you, then perhaps that person is indeed a difficult person. Also, identify your trigger points as you do not want to classify everyone who has differing opinions with you difficult.
2. Identifying the issue
Next, you have to properly identify and define the issue. What is an issue for you might not be an issue for everyone else in the office. Be objective when identifying an issue as you do not want to be wrongly accused of being petty, sensitive or overly emotional. Asking questions such as what caused the issue, is your reaction warranted and are there anything that could have been done to deter the situation will help you to understand the situation better.
3. Confronting the issue or the person
Once you have identified that a particular person is indeed being difficult and that the issue warrants your attention, the next step is to take action. However, the question you should then ask yourself is this – should you be confronting the issue or the person or both? The advisable step is to first confront the issue rather than the person. Make it known that the issue bothers you and that such behaviour is not desirable in the office or school environment. Dealing with the issue first is important as the person could have caused discomfort to you unknowingly. Confronting the person first could make things worse and could strain the relationship. This can be done by conducting a general meeting with everyone and addressing the issue rather than mentioning names.
4. Keep proper documentation
In an event that you encounter colleagues or course mates who have the habit of backstabbing competitions, spreading false news or simply freeloading on projects, be sure to keep proper documentation on all of your dealings with them. This will help you put forward a defence case in an event that you are accused of something untrue. Proper documentations include email correspondence, reports, receipts and minutes of meetings.
5. Getting all your facts straight
Some difficult people do not actually cause hardships on others. They just behave in a way that puts others in an uncomfortable position. Some difficult people tend to behave as if they are always right and that their views are always the best. This can cause others to feel inferior, less-worthy and even deter some from participating. One way of dealing with people like this is to prepare all facts and arguments supported by proofs, ready to have a discussion on it. The aim needs to be made clear when dealing with people like this – the success of the project.
6. The worst kind – bullies
Workplace bullies and school bullies are the worst kind of people to have around. While there are many reasons why bullies behave the way they do, the easiest way to confront them is to not confront them head on. Report it to the human resources department or school authorities. Many institutions have proper channels to report such cases, including whistleblowing.