, Gloucester, MA


September 28, 2012

3 ways to make working with difficult people easier

Many people encounter negative and difficult co-workers at their workplaces. Here are three suggestions to help manage their behavior, and make your worklife more pleasurable. You will find that it may be an opportunity to practice the cardinal rule of changing another’s behavior: change your own behavior first by approaching the situation in an assertive, productive, and non-accusatory manner.

Problem: A co-worker is making your life on the job miserable. She makes negative, judgmental remarks about your work, your taste in clothes and your lifestyle in general. You dread going to work because you never know when an unexpected put-down will be aimed at something you say, do or wear.

Solution: Dis-empower your co-worker, using behavior that is appropriate to the situation and acceptable to your personal standards. People who put others down do so out of some emotional dysfunction because those who feel good about themselves do not have a need to make others feel bad in order to make themselves feel better. Negative people may be jealous, insensitive, ignorant, suffering from low self-esteem or all of these things at the same time.

Despite the fact that their behavior is essentially


problem, negative people create stress for those around them. They instinctively play on the insecurities and self-doubts of others, making them feel incompetent and defensive. This is doubly difficult in the workplace, where you need to feel competent.

To take back that which is rightfully yours — the right to work without fear and harassment, you need to defuse your co-worker’s negative power. For example:

Change your relationship to “all business.”

Don’t engage in any personal conversation with her, and do not reply or react to any remarks that aren’t absolutely necessary and related to work. It may take some time, but she will eventually get the message. If she challenges you, simply say “Jane, I would appreciate keeping our conversations strictly related to work issues.”

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