Dealing With Difficult People

About 10% of the typical workforce is classified as falling into the Difficult People category. Some people are “surprised it’s so little!” Sometimes it feels like they are everywhere! But just what is a difficult person?

Perhaps the better question is: what is a difficult person for you? Perhaps it’s someone who is disruptive. Or . . . it might be someone who is too quiet and hard to draw out; not a good listener and always interrupts; someone who bullies and is very abrupt.

The effect they have on the organization varies greatly, but usually involves the following: Low moral, increased conflict, group attitude goes as their attitude goes, intimidation, insults, team demoralization, decreased productivity, rising costs, increasing project risks, need for additional resources, etc.

What happens to you when you deal with a Difficult Person? Everyone has a slightly different reaction, but some common reactions include a rise in blood pressure, racing heart, lump in the throat, “fight, flight, or freeze” syndrome, or getting red-in-the-face. One thing you can be sure of: If you don’t do something about the “thing” that someone is doing that makes them difficult for you, you’ll continue to get more of it.

There are many types of difficult people. In general, they can be rolled into these main groups:

  • The Steamroller: This is the bully of the group – always interrupting, insulting, and yelling. We all know those types.
  • The Sniper:These are the folks who hide in the back of room, always sniping – taking shots at everyone, constantly nit-picking back at you, sending out comments, etc. They always want to do this from “under cover.” If you call them on it they say, “Oh, I’m just kidding,” or, “Can’t ya take a joke?” or, “I didn’t say anything!” They always have a comment.
  • The “Can’t Say No” person:Will not say no to work. The problem is they won’t say no, they won’t say no, they won’t say no . . . and then they finally just collapse!
  • The Know-it-all:Do I have to say anything else? Need I say more? They know it all!
  • The Complainer:Chronic complainers! Chronic whiners! To them, life is one big complaint!
  • The Staller:This is the person who just…will…not…make a decision. They will not commit to anything; they are always stalling.

No matter which one of these personality types is the difficult person for you, you must learn to effectively deal with them. So that leads to the question: How do you deal with these difficult types of people? That’s what the rest of the posts in this series will be covering.

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