Working with difficult personalities

Working with difficult personalities

By: Amee J. VanNorman

Often times we spend more time with work colleagues than we do with loved ones. Personalities and attitudes can make a workplace fun and exciting, or it can make going to work a miserable experience. I am sure most people had a terrible boss/colleague story to share at some point in their careers (and if you don’t, I am seriously jealous). My terrible boss story involves a supervisor from early in my career. Her frustrated sighs, or worse – her yelled questions that highlighted how inept you were, would echo across the office when someone did not complete a task to her liking, in spite of the fact that she was incapable (or uninterested) in clearly explaining her expectations from the start.

In hindsight, her continual derogatory attitude to my work really affected my professional      self-esteem. It was only after I had left that position, and worked with a supportive and amazing supervisor, that I was able to realize that her negative attitude and inept management had negatively impacted my professional development. In an article for Psychology Today “Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable & Difficult People” Preston Ni lists strategies for dealing with people with difficult personalities. Among his ten great suggestions he notes that you need to “Fly Like and Eagle”. No matter what other approaches you take in interacting with a difficult personality, remember to not let their issues bring you down. Step away, limit interaction, and try to never let someone else’s poor interpersonal skills, or worse – abusive workplace behavior, lessen your self-confidence.

Another coping mechanism I would add is to seek out a mentor or a confidant. Try to find someone who you can work with to develop coping mechanisms, or just privately vent. While it is not beneficial to dwell on the negativity, it does help to occasionally talk about issues. A good listener may even have some input that will help you navigate an upsetting situation. It is important in this situation to know your value, to have confidence in your abilities, and to make sure you do not let a difficult personality bring you down.


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