09 August 2012

How to beat the Bullies, Bruisers and Badly Behaved in your Workplace

It’s easy to get along with nice people. But when they’re angry, confrontational or stubborn it becomes a whole new ballgame. Handling Challenging Personalities is an artform, especially if you want to stay sane.
When confronted with a challenging person, it is all too easy to react and attack back, allowing the person to bring out the worst in you. Or you may be one to retreat and be a walk-over for people who make no bones about getting their needs met at your expense. 
Whilst you can’t prevent people from behaving badly, you can learn to stay calm in crises, and respond in a disciplined way when confronted. 
When you get caught in the storm of your workplace ‘black cloud’, some simple questions will help to clear the air and get the sun shining again. 
  1. Is it an occasional ‘off’ day? Consider whether the person is usually this difficult or is it a one-off occurrence? You may be better off simply walking away rather than biting back if it’s likely they’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed just this once.
  2. Is it a personality issue? Do they realise they’re being rude? Whilst it’s not emotionally healthy to always excuse bad behaviour behind personality, it may occasionally help you to avoid expecting too much of the other person. People are people. Chances are they are oblivious to their impact on you. Sometimes a quiet little chat is all it takes.
  3. What’s the best way to tackle the issue? Would a formal meeting, chat in the corridor or a simple change in your own behaviour work best? You may be able to prevent uncomfortable situations by changing your own routine so you're out of their way.
  4. Is humour an alternative? Sometimes humour can be a great way to deflect conflict and make people aware of issues they otherwise might be oblivious to. Just make sure though, that they don’t think you are making fun of THEM!
  5. What’s really bothering you about their behaviour? Write out your concerns in advance as a great way to clarify what’s troubling you in your own mind. It will also help you prepare for a clear-the-air meeting by helping you to stay on track, cover all issues, and avoid being manipulated or becoming confused.
  6. Do you know WHY they are being difficult? It may be you are misinterpreting their behaviour, based on your own version of reality. It could be that they’re going through their own turmoil, which is causing the hard-to-get-along-with behaviours. Once you understand their reasons, you may even be able to help. Naturally, make sure you’re not seen as prying, if it’s personal.
  7. Can you change your environment? Sometimes, removing yourself from a toxic situation is the only solution. There are some things you cannot change. I once had to extract myself from a lucrative and otherwise supremely fulfilling contract due to the bad behaviour of one of the managers.
Lastly, remember it’s your choice how you respond. Do you need to take on other people’s stuff? Can you interpret things differently? For example, you may be absorbing criticisms and taking them personally instead of looking at what you can learn from them which is far more calming and constructive.
You can make the choice not to participate in the gloom of those who always appear to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Simply ignoring their complaints can be all it takes to let them know they’ll need to find their air-time elsewhere. 
Ultimately your goal is to be responsible and disciplined in your own behaviour, so that you don’t become someone else’s nemesis. Your are responsible for your behaviour. Whilst you can’t change another person’s behaviour, you can change your response to it.