5 Ideas For Dealing With Difficult People in the workplace

Here are five simple rules from author and consultant Carol J. Carter for dealing with difficult people and negative attitudes in the workplace.

As an HR professional, you may be aware of these techniques, but be sure to share them with workers and managers who complain about negative attitudes from customers, bosses and coworkers.

Five positive steps

  1. Don’t take things personally. Often, when people you’ve never met are rude or nasty, they’re having a bad day. While they shouldn’t take it out on you, realizing that it’s not about you can prevent somebody else’s bad attitude from dragging you down.
  2. Ask if there’s a better time to talk. If while dealing with difficult people, someone shuts down for no apparent reason, or if all they’re giving you is cynical, negative responses, ask if there’s a better time to talk. Then thank them for their time and walk away. Chances are they’ll be in a better state of mind later.
  3. Communicate in writing. Sometimes you can get through to someone in writing better than in a face-to-face conversation. Follow up a negative encounter with a cordial note to smooth things over.
  4. See the person as your emotional teacher. Instead of being angry at a difficult person, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Dealing with difficult people can be a lesson in patience – as long as we’re open to learning.
  5. Model integrity. Over time you may be able to establish a strong relationship with an individual who was impossible at the outset. Of course others may never budge. Be considerate to them anyway. You may not be able to control others’ actions, but you can control your reactions to them.

People who exhibit negative behavior aren’t always negative. When dealing with difficult people, give them time and space, and try to maintain your own good spirits.

Adapted from “Turning Around Negative Attitudes in the Workplace,” by Carol J. Carter, LifeBound, 2003.

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