Category Archives: Work
We all have to work with difficult people from time to time. While their behavior varies from being manipulative, dominating, attacking, undermining, controlling, dismissive, confronting, negative, unreliable, critical, or dependent – to name a few – the result is the same. These people cause stress in our lives and hamper our work performance.
It is easiest to understand why others are difficult by asking that same question of ourselves. What motivates us to be difficult to others? Usually it has to do with wanting to get our needs met, and find success in the past by using these undesirable traits.
Difficult people are everywhere. At work they can come in the shape of boss, colleague or customer. At home they can come in the shape of spouse, in-law, PTA president, or neighbor. But rather than allowing the difficult people to negatively impact on our lives, we can work at developing productive techniques for relating to such people.
Whether they decide to change is their decision. You have no control over them. What you do have control over is how you choose to react to them.
7 suggestions for reacting to difficult people:
1. Ignore the behavior. That’s right. Don’t provide them with an audience when they become difficult. By paying attention to the appropriate behavior and ignoring the bad, you will be reinforcing the conduct you want them to exhibit around you. In time, this may help to modify or even extinguish the negative behavior.
2. Use empathy. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand their point of view. By doing so, your body language will be different, indicating more acceptance, tolerance, and openness. You will be breaking the pattern of responding to their difficult behavior with your defensiveness and resistance.
3. Respond to them differently. If their anger has typically elicited an angry response from you, then try responding in a quiet, less emotional manner.
4. Find something positive. Listen for something, even a thread of something, in what they are talking about and give them positive feedback. This will help the difficult person feel more connected with you and more likely to be able to listen to you in response.
5. Establish boundaries. Draw that imaginary line in the sand to protect yourself from abuse, and do not allow the other person to impinge on you in an unhealthy way.
6. Scrutinize yourself. Identify why the other person’s behavior pushes your buttons. Is your reaction a learned behavior that could be substituted for another, more productive, behavior? Are you doing something to provoke the other person?
7. Don’t personalize it. Don’t assume that the other person’s difficult behavior is about you, unless you are told so. This attitude will help you detach emotionally from the other person’s actions and view it more objectively.
You’ve got to love them, for without, you would fail. I’m talking about employees. Without the chef, the restaurant’s customers would go hungry. Without teachers, the students wouldn’t learn. Without the office secretary, calls would go unanswered and appointments unmade. Realizing this, we must ask ourselves if we are relating to our employees as being a vital component to our company’s success, or as public enemy number one.
Business owners and managers spend a considerable amount of effort attempting to motivate staff so as to increase their level of production, commitment and cooperation. Time and money is spent on in-services, training programs, expensive reward programs, and day long workshops; all in the hope that employees will receive the instruction that will successfully motivate them. Yet the goals set by these programs often fall short. When that happens, accusations and disciplinary actions may follow. This typically doesn’t help motivate the employees, either. Why? Training or rewards were externally imposed upon the workers. True success comes when the employee is invested in the program being offered.
Employee enrichment programs typically emphasize worker growth. Yet employees naturally possess the ability to be creative and passionate towards their work. What is required for these natural traits to be developed is for employers to become better listeners.
Listening is an underappreciated skill in communicating the company values with staff. Listening communicates respect, trust, and how we expect others to be treated. The manner in which we treat our employees is how they in turn treat their work, each other, and your customers.
Employees need to believe that an employer values them as individuals, and are committed to making their needs and interests a priority in the company. Listening affirms this, by conveying empathy and awareness of their issues. The employees in turn will learn to respect, trust and respond to the value system of the employer. Think of it like a tennis match. You serve ‘empathy’ to your opponent, and she hits ‘trust’ back to you. You return the volley with ‘concern’, and she serves back ‘commitment to your company values’. To remain credible with your staff, you must continue the ongoing process of listening. Failure to listen, or in this metaphor, failure to return the volley, will result in the breakdown of trust and respect.
Doubters should reflect back on their childhood. Do you remember a parent instructing you to follow his or her instructions, “Because I said so”? This closed, rather than open, form of communication did little to add to your respect and appreciation of this parent’s agenda. This is because your parent was trying to gain your cooperation by controlling you. It may have been successful for the short run, but you were not invested in the plan, and probably complied with less than spectacular effort and plenty of resentment. If that style of leadership didn’t work back then, you can be sure it won’t work now.
So go back to your employees and be a great employer by listening. Truly listen to them. Such commitment to your staff will be a key to their growth and the success of your business.
How many times have you found yourself putting off important tasks in your personal life or career? Isn’t it dreadful how procrastination results in increased stress, resentment and guilt? So why is it that this pattern of procrastination and unhappy feelings is repeated time and again in your life?
If it is due to feeling overwhelmed with stress, then perhaps you need more balance in your life. Too often we fail to plan for the fun things in our lives. We commit ourselves to working long hours, and assume we will fit our social activities, hobbies, exercise, and even sex into whatever time is left over. Unfortunately, the ‘have to’ items on our lists are so time consuming that we often run out of time to engage in personal pleasures. When that pattern continues for a long period of time, we lose our motivation to keep working, and procrastination sets in. If procrastination continues for too long, we can experience a downward spiral into depression.
Interrupt this cycle of ‘work-work-work’ and no recharging of your ‘play’ batteries by changing your view of relaxation. Relaxation is not a frivolous extra like dessert! View it for what it is: a necessary component in the healthy balance of life.
So how do you manage this balance?
#1: Reduce your to-do list. Looking at too large a list of things needing to be accomplished is akin to looking at a full plate of food when you have the flu. It turns your stomach, you feel overwhelmed, and you want to turn away from it, desperately hoping it just goes away.
Take your to-do list and eliminate the items on the list that do not require your attention.
Delegate to others some of the tasks. Can a colleague/spouse/child take care of any of the tasks?
#2: Identify your own balance. Do not compare yourself to others. Some people may be able to work 12 hour days and somehow manage to get everything accomplished while appearing energized and content. Balance in your life may mean you work best at limiting work to a specific number of hours or days in order to achieve the equilibrium you are seeking.
#3. Evaluate lessons taught to you as a child. We often lead our adult lives based on lessons learned from our parents when we were young. Some children are taught that recreation is wasteful, and that all activity should be purposeful. As adults, these individuals will have discomfort, guilt, and low feelings of self-worth if they pursue activities that allow them to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. Examine these thoughts and think about whether these tapes that are playing in your head and directing your daily activities are working well for you today, or are influencing an unbalanced lifestyle.
#4. Select exercise time purposefully. When we become overwhelmed with a project, we tend to feel sluggish. With an increase in lethargy, our level of productivity decreases. When this occurs, set aside 15- 20 minutes to do some exercise, increase the blood flow, and bring up your energy level. You will find yourself more motivated and capable to tackle a large or undesirable project.
#5. Use the carrot and stick reward system. Remember the story about the stubborn donkey walking forward in the hopes of getting a bite of the carrot, which was dangling from a pole just out of his reach? Set up similar rewards for yourself, but with a more enticing outcome. Plan ahead for small rewards that you can enjoy following the completion of each task. With large tasks, you may want to have small rewards at different intervals. Knowing that you will have earned a reward that you value will help keep you focused on the task at hand, with the sustained energy level required to get it done in a timely fashion.