with Difficult People
Submitted by: Steve Hubbell & Bruce Marxsen, Professional Development
Officers, Lincoln Composite Squadron
of us has a 'difficult' person hiding within. Some have it well hidden
and only let it our rarely. Yet, others use their difficult personality
readily, much to the distress of others. Most often people will channel
their difficult personality types into competitive sports, displaced responses
to irresponsible acts or people, and occasionally in the form of familiarity
with family or close friends. There are certain postulates of reality:
can be difficult
people just may not like you
just may not like certain people
may be the difficult person
behavior you find difficult, has served the person well
people for whom or what they are is tough
cannot select family members based on their personalities
with difficult people in a workplace environment is the most common situation,
because difficult people within a family situation are considered routine
and socially acceptable.
not choose to be difficult. Behavior in people is usually a product of
several factors, including individual perspective and reactive center,
mode of dealing with situations, prioritized needs, familial imprinting,
and life experiences. In all of the above, there is a tendency to complicate
the matter to label the characteristics that make people individual and
unique. Personal difficulties between people are usually traced back to
the differences in the following:
of each individual depends on his or her role within the workplace, with
one or more secondary influences that will affect how the person is perceived
to the outside world There are seven primary personality roles in the
the worker that creates moods, environments, things, and ideas.
the communicators that seek life's enjoyments to share with others.
the workers behind the scene taking care of everything and everybody
the worker that is uplifting with an ability to be compassionate
those who are the productive, organized doers, planning and enforcing
the leaders handling large-scale efforts with power and authority
the people with a thirst of knowledge that will try everything to
see what it is like
personality role is also dominated by a primary perspective and out look
Perspective- seeking out simplicity over complexity
Perspective- viewing life through the limitations of rules and
Perspective- striving for success, seeing competition in everything
Perspective- focusing on teamwork and relationships with others
Perspective- seeking and teaching the broader vision of possibilities
personality role is then dominated by a primary reactive method when circumstances
are no longer ordinary:
Centered- reaction based on thinking about an event when it happens,
then feeling or moving, usually showing limited emotion
Centered- reaction based on perception of other's feelings when
an event happens, then thinking or moving quickly
Centered- reaction based on action and motion before thinking
PEOPLE IN A WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT
cases a difficult person is someone working from a negative side of their
personality, rather than a conscious effort to be difficult. The person
is often unaware of how they may be affecting others. There is value in
taking the time to understand another person's point of view. Dealing
with difficult people begins with identifying behaviors that trigger a
strong reaction in you.
of workplace role, primary perspective, and reactive method make up the
categorized difficult personalities that are demonstrated by people when
situations are out of the ordinary. It is important to note that in routine
or normal settings the uniqueness of people in a group is what makes life
interesting and enjoyable. However, when the situation turns away from
normal or routine, the difficult personality inside can come out in others
as less than enlightening or as a means of perceiving others. :
Ultra-Sensitive Person- this person is routinely shy or reserved.
When under pressure the slightest most innocent things said to him
or her can be misconstrued and taken personally causing an emotional
this person is not the first to adapt to any form of change. When
under pressure for immediate change, this personality will turn negative
although, not usually choosing to openly express opposition to the
change. The difficulty will be in the slow implementation of change
or under extreme pressure to change, sabotage.
Solution- the best way is to involve these people in the change,
making them part of the process. Another way is to introduce gradual
change, allowing him or her to get used to it. Sudden change heightens
this person feels a loss of control over his or her environment (or
people) and gets control back by controlling information, even if
it is not truthful information. This person feels a sense of importance
with creating and spreading stories about people or things. Under
pressure the information spread grows increasingly negative.
this person is on a mission to disagree with anything that is said,
in order to be 'right' no matter what. In a routine working environment,
chooses negative feedback and fault with every idea. Under pressure,
this person will find problems with every attempt for success, never
identifying solutions or seeing opportunity.
Blame Shifter- this person routinely never wants to accept responsibility
for his or her own shortcomings or mistakes. Their goal is to shift
the blame onto others or situations beyond their control. Under pressure
they seem to feel better when others get into trouble.
Micro- this person will routinely focus on the smallest details
or mistakes, and forget the larger picture or reason for doing something.
He or she would rather ensure that the spelling or grammatical errors
are correct, instead of the message being sent. They are often left
out of the loop of information because he or she will just question
the most insignificant information. Under pressure this person becomes
inappropriately negative and is regarded as too picky to involve.
Solution- the best way to handle this person is to involve
them in evaluating an entire project or assignment. The goal is
to get them involved in the macro process of evaluating strengths,
weaknesses, benefits, and objectives. If he or she focuses on
the greater (macro) picture, they will not have time for the small
details and negativity.
Steam Roller- this person expresses negativity by steam rolling
over people. On a routine basis, he or she is autocratic, dictatorial,
and at times tyrannical. Under pressure they can become very angry,
hostile, and will take their frustrations out on others.
Child- this person behaves like a child who does not get his or
her way. Not getting their way causes negativity. Under pressure this
person will complain that others are not cooperating fully and due
to the stress will not be able to make any progress.
Martyr- this person comes in early and leaves late, giving his
or her best and never feels appreciated. Under pressure they will
declare they may as well 'quit' because their work goes unnoticed
and gravely unappreciated. Under such pressure, they just may go and
sacrifice for someone or something else.
Pessimist- this person is unhappy, expecting the world to collapse
around them at any time. Not much can be done to make them happy.
Under pressure, when disaster does not happen, he or she will do whatever
possible to ensure that disaster happens.
Uncommitted- this person does not take work seriously, and sees
it as a low priority in his or her life. Their focus is trying to
do as little as possible so as to find time to take care of their
personal agenda items. Under pressure, this person will be even less
productive or cooperative.
Solution- the best way to handle this person is to set and
communicate clear, concise standards, goals, and expectations.
Then, closely monitor performance.
Not-My-Jobber- this person expresses negativity by refusing to
do certain unpleasant tasks, stating that what is expected is not
in his or her job description. Under pressure this person uses it
as a means to get back at colleagues.
Perfectionist- when things are not done perfectly, this person
turns negative. Under pressure, expectations of themselves and others
turns unrealistic, casting a negative aspect across an entire team.
this person routinely wants in on every discussion and will voice
a contrary point of view, just to be perceived as a player. Under
pressure, he or she will try to voice an opinion that may be right,
but are so set in their methods of being contrary they do not voice
themselves well, and will turn very negative because nobody listens
The Bucket Dipper-
this person is known for stating the obvious, usually just to feel
involved in your life. Routinely this person is not negative, just
irritating. Under pressure, this person will have a hard time finding
an original thought to share and will not be of much use to the team.
Victim- this person covers their inadequacies with a variety of
victim-type responses. Routinely, when something goes wrong, it will
be he or she who are the victim pointing out the inadequacies or hidden
agendas of others that have caused the problem in which they are once
again the victim. Under pressure, this person will work harder at
setting up others to take the fall, than to stop a problem from occurring.
Space Invader- this person does not seem to notice social boundaries,
assuming you want his or her unsolicited advice. Under pressure this
person will focus on working to fix any problem you have, instead
of the their own work related problems.
Nitro- this person routinely wants total control of any situation,
and when control is lost he or she 'loses' it. They feel that everyone
and everything is sabotaging their superior effort. Under pressure,
this person can turn hostile, belligerent, and aggressive, which should
never be accepted in a work environment.
Solution- Do not be afraid to report openly aggressive actions
by this type of personality. It is best not to be confrontational,
as this can lead to more violence. Let the person 'lose' it, without
confrontation and then talk to them about their anger when they
are in a 'controlled' state. Continued behavior of this nature
should be reported to upper management.
Over-Committer- this person is impatient with their mind never
in the 'present'. Routinely they are thinking about what is coming
up and will accept the responsibility of getting the 'future' taken
care of, usually over-committing. Under pressure, this person will
make mistakes due to rushing, have accidents, and miss deadlines.
They will often disrupt or interrupt others because they feel their
concerns are more important.
Solution- the best way to handle this person is to ask them
to slow down (verbally and with their actions), explaining to
them there is plenty of time to get things done error free. Help
them set realistic deadlines, and if they take on too much, help
them cut back.
PWBA (Person With Bad Attitude)- this person wears a bad mood
like a garment. He or she is not happy unless they are complaining
about someone or something. This is a sign that their unhappiness
stems from outside the work environment. Under pressure, this person
will exhibit extreme negativity blaming others without taking responsibility.
Solution- the best way to handle these people is to befriend
them outside of the work environment, but assertively tell he
or she that their negativity is disruptive to the group effort.
Let them know you will be glad to meet with them off-hours to
discuss 'things' in a social setting, but you will not be tolerating
their negativity while at work.
Note: In an abnormal situation, the perceived difficulty may be in others,
in you, or in how you are viewing others. You cannot always blame the
other person. It may be you, or how you perceive them.
begins with accepting people as they are, not as you would like them to
be. Ten Ways to Cope with Negative People:
far the easiest option is avoidance. If you do not have to interact
with the difficult person, then do not. Put physical or psychological
distance between yourself and the difficult person.
the 'shoulds'. Although the difficult person should get their
act together, most will not. We spend too much time wishing the difficult
person's attitude and behaviors should change, or hoping someone should
do something about the person, or you should not have to put up with
possible, make the difficult behavior irrelevant. Focus on what
the difficult person is good at besides tripping your trigger. What
are their useful strengths? How could you build your relationship
around those strengths and bypass the difficult behaviors?
that an attitude or negativity problem exists. Do not ignore it,
if it is affecting that person's performance, your performance, the
performance of others, or the relationship with your internal and
any underlying causes for the negative attitude. Negativity has
many causes, including personal problems, work-related stress, job
insecurity, loss of loyalty, lack of advancement, upper management,
boredom, and so forth. It will help to get the person to see the cause
of their negativity themselves. It is important to recognize that
whatever the cause of the negativity, it is often justified and the
difficult person has a right to feel that way.
your reaction to the behavior. Being neutral in your reaction
is not the same thing as approving of the behavior, it simply means
whatever they do, it will not phase you. Give the difficult person
nothing to push against.
the person take responsibility for their actions. It is ultimately
the difficult person's responsibility to change his or her attitudes
and behaviors at work. Even though the person may feel justified,
negative attitudes and behaviors are still not appropriate in the
workplace. As a teammate or supervisor, you need the person to assume
ownership for his or her actions.
negative, inappropriate reactions with different, more acceptable
actions. The difficult person may not realize the affects of their
behavior or actions on others, and may need your help to change and
come across as more positive.
positive attitudes in others. Be the role model for the difficult
person through your actions and behaviors. You can prevent their negativity
by remaining positive and realizing you also may have one or more
of the negative personality traits that affect others.
management cannot legislate good behavior all the time, because anybody
can have a 'bad hair day'. The best way to modify difficult behavior
is to bring peer pressure to bear on difficult behavior patterns that
disrupt the workplace. This will likely send out a message that there
is a 'social norm' or code of conduct that colleagues will support
and reduce the chances of increasing conflicts based on conflicting
and difficult personalities.
NOT to do With Difficult People:
- Do not
- Do not
push them farther into their negativity because they will only get worse
- Do not
waste your wit on people who are too serious
- Do not
waste your time banging your head against a brick wall
- Do not
say, "I know how you feel"
- Do not
use putdowns or sarcasm
- Do not
waste your energy trying to win someone over
- Do not
think of yourself as perfect
- Do not
allow yourself to be verbally abused, walk away from it
to do if You Feel Difficult:
that coping with others means learning to cop with yourself
a step back and take a deep breath
the overall situation as objectively as you can
the situation from a totally different perspective
what others are saying is just as valid as what you are saying
on your sense of humor
a Win-Win situation to get yourself out of the immediate problem
someone who can help you work on this negative aspect of yourself and
work on it together
- Do not
give up on yourself
to manage your own boundaries better
tactful and diplomatic
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