Difficult people at work – who’s making your life a misery?

difficult people in the work place making your life a miseryAll too often managers phoning our advice line ask for legal support with their ‘difficult person’. And all too often in training sessions am I asked to provide managers with my most amazing insights into how we should manage the difficult people in our teams.

I think that delegates think they are asking me to do something pretty straightforward and simple. No such luck! And if you had an argumentative, sulky, drunk, boisterous, vicious tongued or moody relative visiting this Christmas time you will know that there are few quick and easy (legal) solutions to dealing with difficult people!

But rather than launch into a professional bloggers top tips routine about being firm but fair, not avoiding difficult conversations, raising your assertiveness and boldly telling Misery Guts its time they cheered up or pushed off, my first thoughts usually turn to ‘I wonder how difficult they find you’!

From my observations throughout far too many years working in HR, ‘difficult people’ are considered to be difficult mostly because they are upsetting the norms of expected behaviour, they’re offending our values or what we value, they’re making us feel defensive or inadequate, or they’re behaving in a way we don’t feel comfortable with.

But given that we are all individuals with our own behavioural traits, social groups, values and no end of insecurities, no doubt we all irritate others as much as they irritate us. How often, if we are truly honest with ourselves, are we our difficult person’s difficult person?

Let’s take a look at a few difficult people – (as you read I suggest you note who irritates you and equally, how you probably irritate others):

  • People who aren’t like me
  • People who endlessly moan and complain
  • People who want to complain but don’t, and who instead put a ‘face on’ so everyone knows they’re upset, but no one has a clue what about.
  • People who are selfish or bullies
  • People who believe that they are the only person who is important
  • People who are appear incapable of listening to (and hearing) us
  • People who react badly to feedback
  • People who are endlessly over sensitive
  • People who are ‘feminists’
  • People who are ‘misogynists’
  • People who simply don’t like other people
  • People who take no prisoners ie those who are straight talking or say it as it is (in their view).
  • People who won’t speak up or say what’s on their mind
  • People who make false promises or fail to deliver what they have promised.
  • People who you can’t pin down so you never know what they’ve really done or what they are even intending to do.
  • People who are childish
  • People who act like they are our parents
  • People who keep on doing what you’ve told them not to do
  • People who are in authority, but who don’t do what it takes to command the respect of others
  • People who have been over promoted but who are resisting training and development discussions.
  • People who got a job you failed to get
  • People who don’t ‘fit’ in either through what they eat, wear, drink or how thy speak or socialise
  • People who raise formal complaints
  • People who criticise
  • People who don’t do as they are ‘told’
  • People who don’t do anything until they are ‘told’
  • People who show no personal responsibility
  • People who hold those around them to impossibly high standards
  • People who keep on pressing ‘reply to all’
  • People who ignore the emails you send
  • People who are often late or unprepared
  • People who are always early and over prepared
  • People who are ‘entitled’
  • People who refuse to shout about their accomplishments

And the list goes on and on… but I guess you get the message.

Dealing with difficult people? How about you start with your own personal development and take it from there?

And as a starter for ten here’s a few development areas to pick and choose from: develop your assertiveness skills, learn how to lose the chip on your shoulder, develop your self esteem, improve your communication skills, develop your organisational skills, improve your patience and consideration for others, work at your emotional intelligence, learn to control your impulsiveness…

…crack all of those then you might just find that all those irritating people are no longer half as irritating or difficult as they used to be.

2 replies added

  1. Patrick 2 February, 2022 Reply

    Spot on.
    Currently trying to cope with beloved other, who denies adhd but in fairness has had lots of stresses and losses in the last two years. P
    p.s. looking at synonyms (and associated descriptors) for ‘misery guts’, unfortunately….

    • Helen 10 February, 2022 Reply

      So I’m guessing you’re working on your patience and emotion/stress management to get through this challenging time? And building our resilience is a lifelong effort I find! Good luck!

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