How to deal with dif­fi­cult co-work­ers

Finweek English Edition - - CONTENTS -

most of us will have dealt with a nar­cis­sist co-worker at some point. Or a bully. Or some­one pas­sive-ag­gres­sive. Or a whiner. Or a gos­sip.

And then there’s that one spe­cial col­league who’s a nar­cis­sis­tic, pas­siveag­gres­sive bully who can’t stop whin­ing about a per­ceived slight five years ago, and con­stantly trash talks you be­hind your back.

Deal­ing with im­pos­si­ble peo­ple is dif­fi­cult, but gen­er­ally not im­pos­si­ble. Mostly it re­quires a level head and some deep breath­ing.

The most dif­fi­cult type of per­son to man­age is the self-ab­sorbed ego­cen­tric, the nar­cis­sist who has an in­flated sense of their own im­por­tance, is ar­ro­gant and won’t lis­ten to oth­ers. They are in­ca­pable of em­pa­thy, and ap­peal­ing to them on the grounds of what’s best for the team, won’t help, says Kirsten Long, a life coach at the Sand­ton-based Coach 4 Life. “The only way of deal­ing with a nar­cis­sist is to ex­plain ex­plic­itly what the ben­e­fits are for them.”

De­spite their low emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, nar­cis­sists will of­ten climb to the top of the cor­po­rate lad­der – mostly be­cause they are the most driven and con­fi­dent peo­ple in the of­fice. If you have a nar­cis­sist for a boss, there are ways to man­age the situation, par­tic­u­larly by the con­stant stroking of their ego. (Sur­prise! Nar­cis­sists re­spond well to con­stant praise.) How­ever, recog­nise that in the long term you would prob­a­bly need to find an­other po­si­tion. An ego­ma­niac who feels threat­ened can be ex­tremely dan­ger­ous.



The pas­sive-ag­gres­sive sabo­teur

These co-work­ers are silently un­der­min­ing your au­thor­ity. They may en­thu­si­as­ti­cally agree to do some­thing and then find ex­cuses not to de­liver. Un­like nar­cis­sists, how­ever, pas­sive-ag­gres­sive col­leagues are of­ten ca­pa­ble of em­pa­thy, says Long. If you spend time with them and motivate them, they should re­spond. Also, nip pas­siveag­gres­sive be­hav­iours in the bud as soon as pos­si­ble. For ex­am­ple, if a col­league is con­sis­tently late for meet­ings, don’t let it slide and ask them di­rectly to en­sure that they ar­rive on time.

The downer

One way of deal­ing with ex­ces­sively neg­a­tive peo­ple is to en­cour­age them to be prob­lem-solvers, says Long. For ex­am­ple, when they are dis­mis­sive about a planned new ini­tia­tive, ask them what they would do to ad­dress ob­sta­cles and en­sure suc­cess.

“Also re­mem­ber that neg­a­tive peo­ple can be use­ful in spot­ting prob­lems,” says Long. “Don’t ig­nore them out of hand.”

But re­sist agree­ing (or even nod­ding along) with rant­ing pes­simists just to get them off your back; this will only en­cour­age them. Take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to con­tra­dict them with the facts.

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