Difficult people are all around us. It's also probably fair to say that at some point in our lives most of us have been difficult too. However, when 'being difficult' translates to disrupting our workplace, it's time for a reassessment. Furthermore, mine sites, particularly if you're a FIFO worker, are not good places to be if you have serious issues with co-workers or managers!How does one identify a 'difficult' person, much less deal with one?
Most 'experts' agree that identifying what 'type' of difficult person you're dealing with can be the clue to effectively dealing with him or her. Typically, difficult colleagues, or even bosses, are one of the following personalities:
- The limelight, or 'credit' pincher. These types of personalities feel the need to take credit for work done by others. It may be because they're insecure or have shortcomings so in order to feel better about themselves they develop a habit of believing they contribute more to something than they actually do. Often the credit they're claiming will have been a collaborative effort – working on an exploration project together that subsequently comes up trumps for example. This type of 'difficult colleague will try to take all the credit for finding the ore body. Conversely, if the project comes up a dud, they're usually the first to disclaim all involvement too. "I told you not to drill there….". Dealing with this type of personality is often as simple as keeping your boss informed via regular 'work in progress' reports. If you happen to be there when your colleague does blow their own trumpet, simply make your own comments 'we did this', or 'we found this'. That makes your involvement clear without belittling the other person, and making the situation worse.
- The freeloader or slacker. If you've ever watched a co-worker seemingly under the pump but wondered what work they've actually done to show for their apparent 'busyness' chances are you're looking at the office freeloader. They've always apparently got a million and one things on their plate but make very little progress with any of it. If you're working on a project with this person, ensure everyone in the group has documented job responsibilities and that they're each held accountable for getting the work done in the specified time frame. This gives the freeloader not only a specific job to do, but also a goal to meet, which should make them knuckle down and get it done.
- The gossip. Generally speaking, the office gossip probably spends as much if not more time snooping around in other people's business than they do on doing their job. This person loves the slightest whiff of drama and will happily rumour monger. It can be easy to fall into the trap of getting involved in conversations with them, which is a bad move professionally. Ignore it if you can, excuse yourself from the group if you can't, or redirect attention back to the task at hand.
- The bully. If you have a colleague who regularly makes you feel intimidated, possibly to the point where you don't want to continue working with them, you're likely dealing with a bully. If they like yelling at people, hurling out insults, talking over the top of everyone else, and generally putting others down, they're a bully. Bullies are never easy to deal with. Often the best way is to remain calm and composed, and refuse to show that you're intimidated.
- The negative Nelly. They don't like working for the company, they don't like their boss because, like all their other bosses, s/he's a jerk who treats them badly. The company is, in their opinion, going to go belly-up. And so on. The easiest solution for dealing with someone like this is to stay out of their way as much as possible. If you do have to deal with them, keep refocusing their minds on the task at hand instead of on their negative opinions about everything.
- The disparager. This is the person who builds up their own self-esteem by belittling their work colleagues. They may cast aspersions on your ability to calculate ore reserves, drive pit vehicles, identify rocks correctly, and so on. All whilst making certain everyone knows they can do it perfectly! Deal with them by standing up for yourself. Refute their put-downs and above all don't let them 'get' to you.
- The disrupter. Disrupters enjoy sabotaging others to make them look bad. They may also go so far as to leave colleagues in the lurch by not completing something on time, backing out of a commitment without notice, or even failing to turn up when they know others are depending on them. They'll invariably have a good excuse or they'll tell you they did send you a message to let you know. Somehow it'll be someone else's 'fault', never theirs. If you're dealing with a saboteur, make sure there are well-publicised and regular progress meetings so that everyone involved in a project is kept in the loop. That way a saboteur can't say they didn't know, or pounce on oversights and miscommunications as an excuse to let the side down. If everyone else working on a project knew this person was supposed to supply the all important financial figures for example, there's no excuse for them not knowing.
- The micromanager AKA the control freak. Most of us have probably encountered someone like this. This is the person who can't hand out responsibilities and let those people get on with it. Somehow, they always seem to feel that if they want it done properly, they need to do it themselves. Or at least keep checking to make sure you're doing it the way they'd do it themselves. If you're not, rest assured you'll be told in no uncertain terms that you're not doing it 'properly'. Micromanagers can make other employees feel distrusted and undervalued. The best way to handle micromanagers is to keep them well informed of progress. Keep one step ahead of them by providing them with information and answers before they express concerns or ask questions. It also helps to clarify with them beforehand exactly what you can decide without their input, and what you need to run past them first. For example, if you're calculating an ore reserve, at what stage do they need to 'check' what you've done.
- The despot. These people have a 'my way or the highway' approach to things. They're often not open to ideas and suggestions that don't align with their own. One way of dealing with a dictator type personality is avoiding a confrontational approach. You don't for example say things like 'I think we should….'. Instead you'd 'ask' a question – 'do you think we could try….'
If you're faced with difficult people at work, whether they're co-workers or managers, the most important thing is to remain calm and professional about it. If you let yourself get drawn into a conflict with them, not only is it unprofessional but it could also end up badly for you. Try to remain positive and focus on working out ways to resolve the situation rather than contributing to it. If you're dealing with a co-worker, see if you can resolve the issue without taking it higher. Quite often, a positive attitude in the face of negativity can help defuse the situation too.