Dealing With Difficult People Like Bad Bosses and CoWorkers

by Jacques Sprenger on June 30, 2009

Another way to describe a “bad job environment“.

Whenever a group of people are asked to perform a certain task, whether in an office, in the National Guard or on a factory floor, some members manage to poison the atmosphere for everybody else. These persons have a serious underlying psychological problem which they try to solve by being rude and unprofessional. Sometimes they even vent their anger on the public they supposedly serve. Remember the “Soup Nazi” in the Seinfeld show? That’s an excellent illustration, albeit a bit exaggerated, of a toxic human character that enjoys humiliating or bullying unsuspecting people.

dealing with difficult people, bad bosses, coworkers

How To Deal With Difficult People Like Bad Bosses and CoWorkers

While you may be thankful that there are no job layoffs at your company, there could be other things you may want to be wary of at work: for instance, the toxic coworker. For some employees, facing a job layoff could be the least of their worries!

“Twenty-nine percent of respondents recently surveyed said they work with someone who is rude or unprofessional on the job,” according to Office Team. How you should handle a situation with someone unsavory depends on this “nasty” person’s position and importance in your team. If it’s your boss (and not the owner of your company), try to ascertain the opinion of your suffering colleagues. If they share your opinion, you may want to go above your boss’ head to place a formal complaint. It’s risky, of course, but take into account that if you do it respectfully, the company cannot engage in reprisals. They may even act to remove the offensive party since team morale affects the bottom line, just as a football coach is fired when the team doesn’t win.

“When colleagues dislike each other, it’s incredibly wasteful of everybody’s time, it leads to lots of misunderstandings and it has a terrible impact on the work atmosphere,” says Fiona Thompson of the English Guardian.

Revolution or Negotiation?

OK, so not everybody has the soul of a Paul Revere. The other option is of course negotiation. A colleague may well listen to reason if a couple of co-workers approach him/her to request a change in attitude. Self-protection is one of the most important traits in the human psyche. If your colleague still refuses to modify his/her behavior, you may want to consider how valuable this individual is to the group. If they are deemed to be star workers by management, your only recourse is to ignore them or to resign. If you are the one loved by your bosses, give them the alternative (ultimatum?): I can’t work with this person, make your choice!

Your Defense Strategies

If you have no alternative but to continue working with these obnoxious people, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Keep track of your work by offering frequent progress reports to your team leader. It will prevent the “credit grabber” from stealing your ideas and claiming them as theirs.
  • Do not participate in water cooler gossiping of any kind. If the person tries to engage you, respond with positive comments and find a nice way to walk away.
  • Try to analyze why you don’t like that person. You may discover that they just want some attention from you and that they can become very good colleagues if you listen carefully to their opinions.
  • You don’t have to be friends with everybody in the team; all you need is to find a way to work together.
  • Examine yourself. You may be the one expecting too much from others. Are you a little jealous or envious? Are you the one who causes the friction?
  • Do not confront the “I have to win every argument” type of person. You’ll just waste your energies and make an enemy by trying to argue about things that are not that important to the success of the team.
  • Pick your fights. Strange as it may seem, there is a time when fighting becomes necessary (Kenny Rogers anyone?) When matters are of crucial importance for the success of the company, fight with everything you have when you are sure your point of view is the right one. You may well earn a promotion out of it.
  • Stand up to bullying. If a co-worker makes constant demeaning remarks about you or continues to harass you, do not hesitate to lodge a formal complaint with management. These people will never change and they have to learn their lesson. Just make sure you have documented every instance and word and use witnesses if you have any.

It’s Human Nature

Do not put up with unpleasant people. Let these people know, gently, that you will take stronger measures if they do not stop, such as lodging a formal grievance. You could also ask to be transferred to another department or to other duties in order to escape that pernicious individual. But the sad truth is that we always encounter unpleasant people in the working area; that is inevitable. Find the best way to deal with it, which might be to “grin and bear it.”

 
Image Credit: Threshold

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tard October 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

The very worst way to handle this is to ‘grin and bear it’.

Unless you are the ultimate passivist doormat, of course, who is usually the target of bullies in the first place.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a bully boss and did end up leaving because of him, but in my exit interview announced my intention of suing specifically for a hostile workplace generated by him. The HR lady went white and while I never heard what happened, the passive-aggressive nature of my fake attack suited his style perfectly. Big fun.

2 The Smarter Wallet October 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

@Tard,
Sorry to hear about your situation. I agree that a hostile work environment should not be tolerated and a “fake” threat could just be the wake up call a bad boss needs.

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