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Dealing with Difficult Personalities at Work



As much as we would like to think that our workplace is a utopia where everyone gets along and works together seamlessly, the reality is that we all have to work with people who have difficult personalities. These individuals can range from the passive-aggressive colleague to the outright aggressive boss, and they can make the work environment a living nightmare. However, with the right tools and strategies, it is possible to manage and even thrive in a work environment with difficult personalities.

The first step in dealing with difficult personalities is to understand the behavior. When someone is behaving in a way that is disruptive or harmful, it is usually a symptom of a deeper issue. For example, a colleague who is constantly undermining your efforts may be feeling insecure in their own role and is using your successes as a way to bolster their own self-worth. Once you understand the underlying cause of the behavior, it becomes easier to respond in a way that is both effective and compassionate.

One effective strategy for dealing with difficult personalities is to set clear boundaries. This means that you have to be assertive and communicate your needs and wants in a firm, yet respectful manner. For example, if your colleague is undermining your efforts, you can tell them in a direct and respectful way that their behavior is not acceptable and that you expect them to respect your work and your role in the team.


Dealing with difficult personalities at work is one of the key topics my co-author Ken Cameron and I talk about in our 5 Star Amazon book 'I Need To F***ing Talk To You - The Art Of Navigating Difficult Workplace Conversations'


You can now order copies of our book here.

"Sometimes conversations suck, but you need to have them, and this book lays out how. Russell and Ken have put together and road-tested simple, up-front, and thoughtful approaches to awkward and difficult workplace conversations."

Andrew Phung, CBC's Kim's Convenience


Another strategy is to focus on what you can control, which is yourself and your own behavior. By doing so, you can take responsibility for your own feelings and reactions and take control of the situation. Avoid reacting emotionally to the difficult person's behavior and instead take a step back and look at the situation objectively.


Another useful technique when dealing with difficult personalities is to use active listening skills. When someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention, and don't interrupt them. Repeat back what you've heard to show that you understand their perspective, even if you don't agree with it. This will help to defuse any tension that may be present and create a more collaborative environment.


Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Dealing with difficult personalities can be emotionally draining, so it's important to make sure that you are taking the time to care for yourself. This could mean setting aside time for self-care activities such as exercise or meditation, or simply taking a break when you need it.


To find some great tips on how to structure difficult workplace conversations why not check out this previous blog post 'Use the B.E.E.F Model to Correct Employee Behaviour'


Or check out our online course



In conclusion, dealing with difficult personalities can be a challenging task, but it is possible to manage and even thrive in a work environment with difficult personalities. By understanding the behavior, setting clear boundaries, focusing on what you can control, using active listening skills and taking care of yourself, you can create a more positive and productive work environment for yourself and your team.


I hope you found this blog useful. As you continue your leadership journey, don't forget that here at Bluegem Learning we are always here to assist you.



If you'd like to hear more from business leaders about handing difficult workplace conversations, check out our podcast here, new episodes bi-weekly ...


Well that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and I'll be back soon with more, until then ... be a leader not just a boss!



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