How to deal with difficult co-workers
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.
PERSONALITY TYPES INCLUDE:
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.
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.