Most of us work for a living. On or off the job we are bound to encounter a wide range of, shall I say, challenging personalities? Bullies, intimidators, hypocrites, backstabbers, underminers, instigators, complainers, gossips, withholders, and know-it-alls just to name a few. Their presence can be distressing and distractive. Many of us are ill-prepared to deal with their ever unpredictable behaviors yet are quick to hold them accountable for making it even more impossible to perform our already demanding jobs.
As in all relationships, the interaction between both parties contributes to the dysfunction on the job. Therefore, it is imperative to first examine the self for any improprieties. Take a moment and reflect upon the following:
~ Am I guilty of any of the preceding behaviors? Unless I am able to identify my own destructive behaviors I have no right to complain about others nor do I have the ability to improve the dynamics. I am responsible for my own actions and must first be willing to change myself.
~ How is my attitude? Have I always been polite and respectful? Was I in a bad mood the day we had an issue? Did I say or do anything that may have provoked the other party now or prior to the incident?
~ What is my history with this person: amicable or hostile? What is their personal history? Is this an isolated incident? Is this behavior out of character for them or typical?
~ Am I blowing things out of proportion? Have I taken personal offense to an issue that is not about me? Am I the only one in the office who has an issue with this person or does he/she behave the same way with all of us?
~ Is this impacting my performance on the job? It is causing me significant distress? Do I need to address the issue with the individual? Can I let it slide? Do I need to enlist the aid of another person such as my supervisor to help resolve this?
Only after I have thoroughly and honestly examined my role in this incident can I take action with (not against) the other party. (Attitude is key: you are coworkers, not adversaries.) There are several keys to dealing with individuals who exhibit the above characteristics:
1. Carefully and objectively assess the situation and determine its level of seriousness. A minor incident may be well to overlook while one of a more critical nature needs to be addressed.
2. Determine if this is something you are comfortable and qualified to handle on your own. Involving a third party might jeopardize the other’s anonymity and sense of safety.
3. Choose the proper time and location to discuss the issue.
4. Utilize a firm yet fair approach, speaking with confidence and clarity.
5. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions rather than make assumptions or accusations. However, be certain to hold them accountable for their actions.
6. Listen open mindedly to their response or explanation. Consider their point of view.
7. Set guidelines and boundaries if necessary.
8. State your position and what changes need to take place. Ask for the same from them.
9. Reach a mutually agreed upon settlement and put the issue behind you.
10. For those issues or individuals who will not change, accept what is and do the best you can under the circumstances. Not every incident will be resolved the way you had hoped for.
Remember that whatever course of action you choose to take or not take, do so with dignity and integrity. Your behavior reflects your character and the example you set may be just enough to surreptitiously resolve the issue.
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