On some days, none of us are very easy to work with. We´ve got baggage or maybe it´s as simple and mundane as a bad ride into work. Whatever our reasons are for being difficult to work with we need to know about it. Now, before you go defending yourself think for a minute about the last three months. Were you a little more ornery than usual? Did you let something slip about how you really feel about that guy with the funny shoes who works down the hall? Maybe you rolled your eyes at a staff meeting and more than one person saw you.
How likeable are we anyway? Just because we get the job done doesn´t necessarily mean that we´re well liked. Indeed, we all make mistakes but does each of us learn from the lessons offered? Are our employers accountable for getting us into shape when it comes to becoming easier to work with?
Here´s the problem: good managers know how to maintain momentum when it comes to projects. That´s their job. How often do you hear the CEO command his or her staff to "Make sure you help you difficult to work with people not so difficult"? The intent for such a goal runs up and down the corridors because everyone knows that difficult workers are, well, difficult. On the other hand, some employees become very adept at simply avoiding those people. Turn the other way, walk around a different corner, ignore your phone and e-mail-the possibilities are endless!
Still, I think we all have a responsibility to help difficult workers minimize the damage they can incur on an office. In many cases, a worker just needs a little feedback, some constructive criticism that won´t backfire. If a manager can´t provide that kind of feedback-she´s nervous, doesn´t know how to effectively communicate, is worried about a backlash, etc.-then some training might be necessary. Ignoring the problem can only make it worse. The longer someone sticks around the harder it is to change his or her habits. Worse, your difficult-to-work-with employees, while annoying to their colleagues, might be a dream to the client and that´s a relationship you want to be very careful with. The last thing your company needs is a customer who´s wondering where that sweet and capable worker got to. Also, picture this: some companies actually become hostage to their difficult workers. That´s just human nature; if a difficult person isn´t stopped, she keeps going. What does she have to lose?
It´s not fun to confront difficult people anywhere, but if you modify your thinking so that it´s not even so much a confrontation but rather a, let´s call it, an exploratory chat, then it is possible, I believe, to help this person turn around. Don´t attack though; most people tend to become defensive when others lob big, nasty criticisms their way. You might start out by saying something like, "You know, no one is perfect around here. I remember when I . . ." and go from there.
Next time: Ilise Benun and her new book "Stop Pushing Me Around! A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy, and Less Assertive"