Friday, May 30, 2008

Handling difficult people at work

In the business world, it is pretty normal for us to have unavoidable chance to work with some sort of "difficult people", who is working from the negative side of their personality and affecting other people in the team.

Usually, people don't intend to be "difficult" consciously or intentionally. Such actions are often preceded by a semi-paranoid feeling, and the person is often unaware of themselves and how they have affected others. They also don't realize how harmful their actions are to the teamwork and also to their own career success.

Among the common symptom of difficult people is "arrogant", especially prevalent in technical and/or professional people. Psychologically speaking, arrogance is a kind of defense against vulnerability and insecurity, often learned in childhood when parents constantly criticize a child for not being good enough. The person is so afraid of being seen as unworthy or incompetent, that they immediately throw up a defensive shield against any possible attack. This defense protects them for a while, but everyone else sees that it is false. In the end, they lose credibility and respect, which unfortunately is exactly the thing they fear the most.

"Dominance" is another well recognized trait that seems prevalent in people in management positions or positions of corporate power. No matter what other people says or does, this person will force their ideas on everyone else. There can be no open discussion or involvement. Things must be done this person’s way or else. However, they will also always trying to remind people that they are "opened".

This symptom has a negative aspect of "dictatorship". It is worst when the person’s primary role is acting as Warrior or King. If they happen to also have Power mode combined with Dominance, people will feel as if someone punched them in the stomach when the person lets loose with their verbal abuse.

The positive side of Dominance is "leadership". When this person is relaxed and working from the positive side of their personality, they can be quite effective and charming. As with Arrogance, stress or insecurity may bring on the attack. It may seem to come without warning or you may be able to see the stress building up.

In the end, the person probably loses their ability to control events, which is exactly the thing that they fear most.

When you see someone go into attack mode or excess defensiveness, do recognize that it is useless to argue with them, and understand that the person is feeling very insecure at that time. Don’t continue to push them because they will only get worse. Keep your own sense of self-confidence and don't allow yourself to be verbally abused. If they are always overly defensive or always attacking others, you may need to find another person to work with, who does not have the same problem.

If the problem couldn't be solved, and
the difficult person is your boss, you might want to reconsider whether it's time to find a job elsewhere. If the difficult person is your subordinate and they don't seem to improve within a reasonable time, you should get them out of your team to chop off the damage.


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