How NOT to Deal with Difficult People at Work – Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

We’ve all had a co-worker, boss, family member, neighbor, you name it, someone who just makes life miserable.  And who hasn’t pulled out more than a few hairs from total frustration dealing with the chaos they create?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a handbook of instructions on managing unpleasant people?  Well, there is, and it is called Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) by Amy Gallo, published by Harvard Business Review Press and hitting bookstores in September.  

It is just a great read, and Amy describes situations we have all been in. (I even saw myself in the book – both as a victim and one very unpleasant person, me!)

I sat down with Amy and discussed the things that most of us do wrong when faced with impossible people, or people who we think are impossible. She provided a by-the-numbers approach on what not to do and ways of heading off major confrontations.

1. Suppress your emotions.

The result: If we do this long enough, we are likely to explode. Well-meaning people often say, “Just ignore it. Suck it up!” But the problem with that attitude is that later on, emotional leakage occurs, and we end up expressing feelings in unproductive ways because we just can’t manage them any longer. Or we take our frustrations out on an innocent co-worker or family member.

To avoid that, psychologists recommend these steps to plug your leaking emotions:

  • As you feel your anger increase, take the time to ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Name the emotion.
  • Next ask, “What thoughts are causing these emotions?” Our thoughts drive our emotions. If you can correctly identify the thoughts that are impacting your emotions, things become much more clear.
  • Finally, analyze whether you viewed the event that upset you objectively. Be careful to not let your brain fool you into believing that you are always right.

2. Retaliate! Fight fire with fire!

Consequences: By matching their behavior, the result is that you intensify the feeling of being on opposing sides, rather than giving the dynamic between you a chance to change. Retaliating also makes you look bad in the eyes of co-workers, and may even violate your values. You want to act in ways that you can feel proud of, not that you wish you could take back later.

3. Hope that you colleague will just leave the organization.

Result: You end up biding your time rather than taking steps to improve the …….


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