It doesn’t matter what company you work for, what industry you are in, or the number of people that you interact with on a regular basis, chances are that you’re going to have to deal with difficult individuals at some point along the way. 

Keep in mind that this could mean anything from an overly pessimistic colleague, to a lazy manager, or even an aggressive client who tries to bully you. Regardless of your particular situation, it’s important to know how to deescalate a situation, and to do what you can to improve your professional working environment. 

#1: Have a conversation about expectations

This is the first step that you should take when you encounter a difficult personality in the office. Before you go to a higher up—and even before you start to take things personally—it’s best to have a clear and upfront conversation about all parties’ expectations, ideally before you are too far along in the project or relationship. This can give you a better understanding of where any potential or existing dissatisfaction may stem. Many people have a difficult time articulating their anticipated results, which can make it near impossible for you to deliver in a satisfactory manner. 

#2: Keep facts and data on your side 

This is the ideal next step if you discover that you are working with someone who has unrealistic expectations. Certain results may not be possible, and it’s best for you to find ways to demonstrate that outside of stating your own personal opinion. If an employee, manager, or client is thinking about a project unrealistically, it will help for you to use data and case studies to try and shift their perspective. As they say, it’s hard to argue with the facts.  

#3: Look to change your situation 

This may not always be possible, but if you feel as though you have exhausted all other options, it may be time to look for an external solution. Depending on your company, it may be relatively easy for you to shift to another team or another client, where the personalities might be a better fit. If you decide that your current professional situation is not sustainable, have a conversation with your manager or HR, and present a potential resolution that could benefit all parties involved. This shows that you have put in both the mental and emotional energy toward finding a solution. 

#4: Keep your head up 

There are some people who will just never be satisfied, and it’s important to remember that you can only do so much when it comes to dealing with a difficult person at work. This is easier said than done, but do your best to be the bigger person. You may not always be able to change someone’s perspective or mindset, but remember that you still have some level of control over your own. You’ll enjoy your time at the office much more—and just be happier overall—if you are able to compartmentalize work life vs. personal life. 

Every person and every situation is different

It’s hard to tell why someone acts the way that they do; they might be having a difficult time in their personal life, or come across in a way that they don’t even realize. Just remember that open communication and transparency is generally the best course of action if you are going to build and sustain strong and positive relationships in the workplace. 

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash