Dealing with difficult people

Are difficult employees affecting your bottom line disrupting team performance and productivity? Do clients, customers; co-workers or bosses often ruin your workday? If so, you're not alone.More than 70 percent of workers in America say they experience stress at work due to difficult bosses and co-workers, according to a recent Newsweek poll.

It can be a serious problem for companies causing production delays, high employee turnover and lost business.

Just about everyone you ask can name at least one difficult person in their business life, ranging from coworkers and bosses to overbearing customers.

Four out of five businesses report that difficult employees have a dramatic effect on their bottom line.

Even more startling, one out of six American workers report they have abusive bosses who humiliate them, curse at them.

even throw things at them! These people could have psychopathic tendencies according to the July Issue of Fast Company magazine."There are more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population," according to the magazine.

There's evidence that the business climate has become even more hospitable to psychopaths in recent years, notes criminal psychologist Robert Hare in the Fast Company Article.

Such scandals as Enron and WorldCom aren't just aberrations; they represent what can happen when callous, cunning, manipulative, deceitful, verbally and psychologically abusive people are elevated to leaders of a company, notes Hare.

That's a scary thought for all of us.

The good news for those who are being abused is that people who lose their tempers and yell and scream at others are 60 percent more likely to die in the next 22 years than their nondomineering peers according to Dr.Michael Babyak of Duke Medical University Medical Center.

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to change difficult behavior and encourage desirable, positive behavior in others.

Here are some tips for dealing with some of the difficult people in your life: Critics: These people find the "cloud in the silver lining".

They can be perfectionists, driven, bossy, judgmental, arrogant, exhausting, pedantic and picky.

Critics often think they're being helpful.

To cope: Set limits on the criticism you will accept.

You might say, for example: "You may critique my work performance, but don't tell me how to correct my relationship with my spouse.

For now, that's my business".

Set aside a specific time for employees to vent complaints.

Critics like that; it fits into their problem-solving mode.

Put things in perspective ... consider the source.Does it really matter what your coworkers think about the gifts you give your children? Why tell them anyway? Keep personal stuff to yourself.

Turn the constant critical comments around on the complainer.Ask the critic to come up with some solutions on how to handle the problem.

Give them a few days to think about it.

If you keep hearing the same complaints over and over, there may be some merit to them.

Sit down with that co-worker or employee and ask them for more feedback.

Occasionally, they hit on a true problem we need to address.

Snipers These are the people who hide and take potshots at you behind your back.

They're often jealous of you or want your job.

Their goal is to make you look bad, so they can look better.

To cope: You definitely want to confront them.

The key is to do it in a pleasant, firm manner.

Keep your tone light and your message clear.

If you hear from someone else what a sniper is saying about you, you definitely want to approach the sniper with a light, firm tone and say something like: "Mary, I just heard through the grapevine that you're unhappy with the way I handled the Brown account.

Is that really true? Can I answer any questions for you? If you have any problem with me in the future, I know you'll come to be directly, right?" Clams These people are unresponsive and refuse to tell you why they are silent or upset.

Sometimes it's our communication style which turns them off.

Other times it's because they're afraid of saying something wrong.Your goal is to get feedback from them in a nonthreatening manner.When you ask a clam a question, don't move a muscle until he responds.Ask your question, then just wait, smiling, until they reply.

Don't rush them to reply.

They'll answer eventually.

Bullies Bullies run right over you.

They believe they can control others through intimidation and fear.

They appear very self-confident and strong because they like to intimidate "weaker" people.Your best defense is a strong offense.You have to stand up to them in order to gain their respect.

Let them vent,without interrupting them.

Then, in a pleasant tone, pose questions to get them to disclose what's really bothering them.

Show concern and deal with their problem without criticizing.

Bullies lose their power if you don't cower.

Be strong and courteous but not combative.

Sulkers When someone acts distant but won't tell you why, it may be his way of expressing anger without taking the blame for it or he may genuinely not know what's bothering him.

If you're getting the silent treatment, don't nag or beg the person to tell you what's wrong.

Instead, encourage him to talk by asking open-ended questions such as " What's your thinking on that?" or " You seem a little withdrawn, I thought you might be annoyed that I cancelled our plans last week?" A sulker is often afraid to own up to negative feelings, so don't rush his responses, and don't try to answer for him.

Be patient.

It may take several conversations to get to the bottom of the problem.

Roz Parry of Reno has been a national consultant and trainer for more than 20 years.

Parry has worked with many of the Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses and professional organizations throughout the country.


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