How to Get Along with Difficult People at Work, at Home, Everywhere

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Dealing with and knowing how to get along with difficult people is an international problem.

Every workplace in the world has the same complaint about individuals who are procrastinators, avoiders, drama kings and queens, and the like.

Last week in a seminar I was talking about the fact that Work is NOT a Rehab Facility!

Three people in the audience of 80 stopped my talk by applauding so loud that I decided to find out why they had so much enthusiasm around this subject.

One woman said “I’m sick and tired of making excuses for some of the jerks I have to work with. You’re right, they should go to a rehab facility and leave us the heck alone.” Another called out “There should be a test for the nastiness gene.”

I had hit a nerve.

I veered from my speech to let the group vent. By the time I was ready to complete the afternoon we had made some strategic headway. Glad, those three had opened the door for a great discussion about difficult people at work and how conflict never seems to go away.

There was a shift to thinking about ‘difficult situations’ instead of only seeing ‘difficult people.’ Rather than lurching from upset to upset and applying Band-Aid solutions that do not change or improve anything, there was a willingness to hear me talk about what I absolutely know is core to conflict at work, in all relationships.

How a system operates:

  1. Everything is connected, and no one wins unless we all do: Each of us is part of the system and you must learn to look at your part, not just at ‘the other guy.’
  2. Patterns of behavior show the way out of conflict to collaboration: If a problem is solved, that’s great, you keep going. However, if the same problem keeps repeating and repeating, well then, you have a pattern and that’s where you need to look at how you respond to the situation at hand. Do you avoid, blame, attack, defend? These patterns need to be addressed, not just ‘the other guy.”
  3. Transformation comes from personal responsibility to change: In any system when even one person is willing to ‘own their part’ it causes the whole system to shift. Individual accountability is infectious and can become group accountability. Often the ‘culprit’ is the willingness to blame others and that’s when teams (and families) stay stuck. Remember, it’s not just ‘the other guy.

How to get along with difficult people – 4 questions to ask yourself

Here are some thoughts to ponder as you consider the move from conflict to collaboration:

  1. Why is conflict and upset with difficult people universal in workplaces?
  2. Why does conflict arise so quickly in work relationships, often before colleagues really have a chance to get to know each other?
  3. Why is there such a propensity for conflict to fester and worsen rather than just be a short annoyance that goes away on its own?
  4. Why do most HR interventions fail to reduce the level of conflict at work?

In the webinar “Transform Conflict to Collaboration,” you will learn about the underlying behavior patterns that get in the way of team cooperation. You will learn the way OUT of the continuous whirlpool of defending, blame and attack by Observing, Understanding and Transforming the way you see, hear and feel the unpleasant situation.

And if all else fails, well, rehab is still an option.

Here’s to knowing how to get along with difficult people…



Sylvia Lafair