How To Deal With Difficult People You Can't Avoid At Work

Photo: getty
two women walking and talking

Learning how to deal with difficult people at work isn't always easy.

Take the case of Tom. At this particular meeting, his face was shades of red as he shook his head in dismay. "There's no time to do this!" he said, slamming his notebook on the table.

The four other people in that conference room sat there speechless, not knowing how to respond to the scarlet-faced Tom.

This was the scene at yet another unsuccessful meeting to determine the strategic roadmap for an already successful product.

Tom was just a difficult person to work with. Extremely brilliant in his technical prowess, but so hostile if he did not agree with the way things were being done.

Everyone around him had resigned to his behavior, calling it his "brand." They all knew it was not personal. Yet, no one dared to face him.

RELATED: 5 Damaging Effects Of A Toxic Work Environment On Your Body & Mind

So, how do you deal with difficult people you can't avoid at work?

In our work lives, we have all come across people who we may have considered challenging to work with.

This is the co-worker that withholds information, the colleague that loves getting involved in baseless arguments, or the over-talkative team member. They come in all flavors, forms, and functions.

Almost 90 percent of people deal with co-workers they think are difficult to work with, in one standard and common manner — by avoiding them.

They will minimize contact with them or try working without or around them.

However, think about the agony you subject yourself to when you plot and plan to get things done, without facing the wrath of their stress-inducing behavior towards you.

Pause and reflect.

If they are complicated, why should you be the one to suffer? Very often, we don't realize the harm this approach causes us.

This built-up angst and stress cannot be suitable for your well-being. There is a better way to address this, no matter how you define what's "difficult."

One of my clients, let's call him John, had reached a peak of frustration when his team member, Mona, handed him the shabby month-end report for the nth time.

Every time John tried to discuss it with her, he somehow came back with only more work piled on himself — something that was not his responsibility.

Over time, John started doing those reports himself because he did not want to offend Mona, plus he did not know how to handle getting out of the web of words she weaved.

During a coaching session, he had an epiphany.

RELATED: It's Time To Prioritize Yourself Over Your Job

The best way to deal with difficult people is to call them out on their behavior.

Instead of avoiding them, face them head-on.

He decided to get into a calm yet firm, well-rehearsed conversation with Mona highlighting the shabbiness of the report and how it was affecting him, and closed the discussion quickly by saying he had another meeting to run to before she could refute.

If this is the best way, then why can't we do it? What makes it easier said than done?

Fear and insecurity often prevent us from calling out bad behavior.

There is always some form of fear or insecurity within us that prevents us from doing so. Maybe you fear people will not accept you or like you, or you are scared of facing raw emotions.

One awareness that is indeed necessary to highlight is that if your intentions are right and fair in the best interest of the team, the organization, and yourself, then why be scared or fearful of anything?

Addressing inappropriate behaviors head-on conjures an image of grabbing a bull by its horns — that can scare anyone.

What if we replace this image with a gentler one — say, that of superman saving a town or a doctor curing a patient to make him healthy?

Incorporating the right leadership skills to combat non-productive behavior helps create a productive and healthy team and work environment for yourself and your other team members.

They can be applied effectively if you recognize the consequences and muster the courage to address them.

RELATED: How To Set Smart Goals At Work To Get What You Really Want

Bhavna Dalal is a master certified executive coach MCC ICF, speaker, and author of "Checkmate Office Politics" who helps people develop their leadership skills, such as executive presence, strategic thinking, influencing, and networking. To learn more about her work, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published at Forbes India. Reprinted with permission from the author.