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Getting along with difficult people at work

Whether it is a peer, co-worker, manager, boss or another person at work there can be difficulties in relations. There are bullies and whiners in the workplace that can make relations very difficult, regardless of their position. 

You may be tempted to simply ostracize the person, ignore them or attempt to get in a position where you don’t have to deal with the person. You need to accept that you can’t change anyone except yourself. 

Recognize that there are some people who are obnoxious or just mean-spirited. Others have a sense of entitlement or may be jealous and spiteful. Emotions are at the base of others’ actions which can make them very difficult to contend with.

There are some strategies worth trying in order to improve work relations.  Read the six “As” below for ideas that can work.

1. Acceptance — You have to let go of the desire that things will change by themselves. Disciplining yourself to rise above the fray of conflicts, insubordination, clashing personalities, etc. will open the door for the potential of growth and cooperation.

2. Anticipation — You can avoid trouble by anticipating what is likely to happen. You can either mitigate it or avoid it. Being prepared and vigilant is necessary.

3. Adjustments — Practice good listening skills, empathy and openness. Even though it may not completely solve the problem, it can result in minimizing the conflict. You have to be willing to make changes.

4. Attuning — Being attuned to people will help you to see the other person in a different light. Even a small amount of positivity can be the foundation to build on. Look within yourself. Often the things that bother us about others are the things we dislike about ourselves.

5. Avoidance — If the issues can’t be solved, focus on minimizing your contact with the person. Developing other lines of communication, even going around direct communication and instead utilizing other people may work but avoid  being subversive. Don’t become a recluse in the process.

6. Application — Making a change in your career, transferring to another department, relocating or maybe even looking for another job may be necessary. It can be a challenge but will keep you moving forward in your career. Weigh out the pros and cons of your decision.

Recognize that there will be some people that it is impossible to please. When that person is your boss, it will demand a different approach than dealing with co-workers. You may have fewer workable options. Depending on the relationship, try compromising in order to get along. Don’t allow the difficult people in your work life to affect you to the extent that your personal and family life are impacted.

Don’t let the difficult people taint your opinion of all. Do your best to approach relations calmly, with a clear head and always remember that you can accomplish more with kindness than with a critical, demanding spirit.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.