Managing people cohesively is paramount to achieve professional and organization goals. However, difficult people can become impediments to success. In the first part of this two-part series, we recognized that difficult people at work are a reality. We also identified different kinds of trouble-creators and their traits. The concluding part attempts to find ways to deal with such people effectively.
In dealing with such people, always introspect before taking action. Spend time to analyse behaviour/reactions and identify reasons for such responses. Are you facing similar problems with others? If yes, it’s time to change your management style. If no, then ask yourself, “Am I overreacting?”, “Can I work around the problem smartly?” If you have a good friend/mentor, get an objective view on the problem. Talk to the person, understand his/her behaviour and gauge reactions/responses. Don’t take the issue head-on as it will only widen the rift.
Well, despite your sincere attempts, the problem persists? Then, you have two choices: quit the job or tackle them. Quitting is what losers do! And, you may encounter similar/worse people on the new job. In the last issue, we recognized some common trouble-creators at work. Now, let’s find ways to tackle them.
Chatterbox & Gossipmonger
These people love talking and gossip. In their company, listen, but don’t react. Avoid responding/engaging in the conversation. Since you are unresponsive, your colleague will lose interest. If the conversation becomes personal, clearly inform that it is unprofessional to discuss private lives. Assign work to him/her by saying, “Since you are free, can you please take print-outs?” or “Can you please give this invoice to Richa?” Even if he/she is part of your team, maintain the same strategy. Tell the person that both of us will not meet deadlines if we continue talking. Here’s a good trick – tell him/her, “I am writing an important proposal, let’s take a break at 11.00”. However, don’t exceed your usual coffee break schedule. As a team leader, if you have a Gossipmonger/Chatterbox in your team, ensure that you maintain/monitor strict deadlines. Openly communicate and reprimand the person if he/she falters.
These people are the self-proclaimed “Know Alls” in the organization. As a manager, keep patience. If you plan to discuss an assignment, get all your facts right. Collect background information/possible questions. Go beyond the obvious and ask yourself the “why”/“why-nots”. Be firm and quick in your responses/replies. Give them a feeling of ownership. Use words like “We”/“Our”/“Us” instead of “I”/“Me”. Knowledge King/Queen are assets to the team. Therefore, manage them prudently. Recognize him/her as a mentor and give opportunities to lead small projects. However, retain final decision-making authority and tactfully track these projects.
Nothing works right for these people. Actually, all they are seeking is attention and empathy. Therefore, don’t cheer them up or give suggestions. If the situation is not serious, ignore them. Use sympathetic terms like “that’s bad” or “really! It’s crazy”. However, don’t go too far! Whiners will eventually complete their tasks on time. I had a colleague who would complain about every recruiting assignment. Her attitude was irritating other team members. This is what I did – every time she would start complaining, one of the team members would talk about a task that was tougher than hers. It worked! During monthly task review, if the job has not been completed, clearly communicate that that he/she wasted time complaining. At the same time, for a successful assignment, give credit openly and say, “Why were you complaining? You did a great job!”
A Pseudo Manager delegates work without authority. As a co-worker, offer help only if the request is genuine, else decline firmly. As a manager, if you don’t take action against a Pseudo Manager, other members will feel overworked. Clearly communicate that unless authorised by you, they should not accept delegated work. Ask them to direct the person to you if they have issues. Have review meetings with the Pseudo Manager and discuss adverse repercussions of this behaviour on his/her career.
Passively & Openly Aggressive
While Passively Aggressive people seem unassuming, their sarcasm can dampen your morale. Openly Abrasive people are direct and rude in their communication. When handling either one of them, be assertive, strong, blunt and confident. Don’t ignore their barbs. Let them know that while you are cognizant of their snide remarks/aggressive behaviour, it does not affect you. If you are delegating a task to either type, always focus on results and delivery. Don’t become friendly. Always have “Plan B”, in the event of this person deliberately faulting on deadlines. You have to work smart! Resorting to hostile and aggressive behaviour will only complicate matters. If the Openly Abrasive person starts a fight, don’t lose your cool. Ask the person to meet you in the discussion room. It’s not worth creating a scene. Wait until the person finishes and then give crisp, stern and confident replies. If the situation gets worse, you can always seek intervention from HR.
The Pleaser will compromise commitments to be in good books of people. The first step is to set mutually agreeable deadlines. Indicate that your manager was wondering why The Pleaser was not performing. Drop names liberally. This will have a fabulous impact. Bring to notice that while others are meeting targets, he/she is not. Inform that there are strong chances of him/her receiving a bad assessment. Try strengthening relationship and exercise greater influence. This works! Since these people are capable of giving commitments and not keeping them, devise a good tracking system to monitor daily/weekly/monthly progress.
You will find Credit Takers in every workplace. Therefore, do only what is mandatory and stop giving new ideas/information. If left out, don’t get emotional. If the credit taker is a co-worker, bring up the topic. If this doesn’t help, explore ways to communicate. Naina refuses to acknowledge your critical contribution on a management presentation. If you are in the room, seize the right moment and say, “When I researched for this project, the market response was overwhelming” or bring out one/two key aspects of the research. If this continues, refuse/give excuses for not helping. Be direct about your feelings. Casually spread word among colleagues regarding your contribution. However, don’t back-bite.
Bosses can make you do all the work and take credit for it. If it doesn’t matter much, leave it! However, if you feel that you should receive due credit, subtly ask if you can assist her/him in the meeting. You may not do much, but your presence will give you visibility. With a credit-taking boss, you will have to be on your toes. Be proactive and identify ways to work on some assignments that will give you access to superiors. During interactions, leave subtle hints like, “It was a great working with Rajesh on the marketing campaign”, “I am glad Priya included me in this assignment” or “Learning on this project was amazing”. Challenging assignments can do wonders to your career. You may lose opportunities to hone your skills if you badmouth your boss!
In life, we will face difficult people and situations in our personal and professional lives. So, let’s begin by accepting this universal truth and chisel our skills to manage them successfully and effectively.