Do you fine yourself dealing with difficult people at work? Is your day spent avoiding them, dreading any encounters, and wishing you could be anywhere else but in their space?

Dealing with people who delight in “being difficult”, is an art from. It involves preparation, skill, and a laser like concentration. Being in their presence is akin to being in a “lion’s den” and should be approached as though it actually is.

While situations differ across different jobs and situations, there are some “common sense” things you can do to help deal with those who make our time at work less than welcoming.

Here are some tips that might help you deal with them:

  • Before meeting them make sure your facts, and expected “deliverables”, are prepared well in advance – if you can’t do that then avoid meeting them at all – you’ll be eaten alive
  • If possible do not meet them alone – this is critical if they are the bullying type
  • Listen to their words carefully – are you hearing loaded statements – assumptions etc.?
  • Stick to facts, not opinions when answering questions or replying to their criticism
  • If you are being forced to give information that you are unsure of, say things like “I need to gather more evidence”, “I’ll ask Joe, Jane etc., and get back to you”

  • When challenged about deadlines – instead of using terms like “well its because we are under pressure”, say something like: ” the facts are that other influences are causing this situation” – “for example……” – “can I suggest we do this to ensure we get this completed?”
  • Avoid patronising them. Ask for their advice/input – “could you give me your insights on x,y,z?” – “what, in your experience do you think we could do?” NOTE – “Could do” not “Should do” – there is a subtle but significant difference – “Could” is a request, the other is a similar to a demand
  • Do not generalise or be vague – e.g., do not say “the situation is because we etc, etc,….” – Be specific and say “x,y,z happened and the result was a,b,c”
  • When they suggest something you know to be incorrect never state the obvious – you can use statements like – “and to expand on what you have just mentioned may I suggest…..?” – this way you are acknowledging their input and using it to get your point across too
  • You can also use the above tip for bringing others into the conversation e.g., “if I could expand on what joe/jane just mentioned….” – this gives you the advantage of acknowledging others (which they love) and you also get your point in too
  • Mirror them – if they fold their arms – you can subtly put your hands together, if they lean back in their chair do similar but not overdone etc.
  • Eye contact – this can be difficult but simply focusing on the bridge of their nose can be a way to maintain it without the intensity
  • NEVER deliver bad news – avoid this like the plague – always deliver something of newsworthy or factual value – that way you get associated with the good stuff
  • Leave the encounter on a high note – as soon as something positive is acknowledged look to get out a.s.a.p

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My name is Michael. And I dedicate my day to enabling others to find alternatives to the 9 to 5 or the “daily grind”. Having spent decades in the corporate world, and in other jobs that I simply hated, I have a burning desire to help others become successful at “being themselves”. Please leave a comment if this has helped you.

Always by your side,