Because one key aspect of building emotional and social intelligence, is learning how to handle different personalities skillfully, I’ve also written about techniques for relating to these types of difficult people.
But there are some universal principles that apply to dealing with all difficult people — whether they’re bullies or passive aggressive, know-it-alls or chronic complainers.
1. You probably can’t change them: If you’re a manager you may be able to coach (or get coaching) for employees who exhibit some difficult characteristics — including saying “yes” too often and micromanaging. If you’re a colleague or an employee of these folks, however, it’s best to focus on creating boundaries, taking care of yourself (and your stress levels), and continuing to behave responsibly and professionally.
2. You probably can’t beat ’em either: If what’s really brewing is a power struggle, trying to beat any of these people at their own game will not be productive. Most of them are not emotionally aware enough to say “Oh dear! I’ve been acting badly! Perhaps it’s time to change my behavior!” Instead they’ll fight harder (and, sometimes, dirtier), which will just make the situation worse.
3. That doesn’t mean you should join ’em: The moment you feel the urge to get nasty, surreptitious, or gossipy, head for the higher road. What’s important in these situations is doing your job well, nurturing your own career, and taking care of your mental health. Before you send out that group email decrying the insanely passive aggressive comment your colleague just snuck into her last email, ask yourself, “is there a better way to handle this?” And before you raise that chair over your head to finally, thoroughly, honestly vent your ire at the workplace bully, ask yourself, “will this action maybe make me look bad?”
4. Get help: If you’re being bullied, sabotaged, micro-managed or otherwise feel your work is being affected, talk to a supervisor or colleague who you know and trust. Ask for advice on how best to proceed. Document what’s happening. Develop a plan. Consider your options. In other words, don’t just react.