July 16th, 2014
By Robbie Abed,
Independent IT Consultant, Author of Fire Me I Beg You
It took years to develop, but I was finally able to figure out how to handle difficult situations and how to work with difficult people.
I’ve worked with:
For the person who creates those passive aggressive, “If you’re leaning, you’re cleaning” signs above the sink, I purposely don’t clean dirty spoons and put them in the sink so they can be even more upset. I’m evil like that.
The uncomfortable truth is that not all of these types are easy to deal with. In fact, many of these types make it much harder to get anything accomplished.
Deal with difficult people before they deal with you
Difficult people are an interesting breed. They tend to be the last person in a workflow who has the authority to approve a particular process, purchase order or contract, so they’re the final decision maker. They are nitpicky, irrational, insanely busy people who don’t understand how many hours the team has put into completing an activity.
They ask questions at the last minute about verbiage in a contract when they could have asked the question when you first started on the project. They make you start all the way from the beginning negating all that time you and your team spent on it.
And yet instead of engaging this person right away, most people wait all the way until the end to get their approval, then are in complete shock when this person demands that additional edits be made.
Easy. People hate working with difficult people unless they absolutely have to. Instead of getting answers to their questions right away, they take the easy route and make assumptions hoping the difficult person won’t ask questions once they review it. Nobody likes awkward conversations and would rather show the decision maker a “finished product” so they don’t get negative feedback on something that isn’t finished.
Then when it comes time to review the finished product, the difficult person becomes well, difficult. Of course, this story isn’t complete without the standard everyone blaming each other for a missed deadline when the executive asks why that task was delayed.
Step up and deal with the decision makers even if they make you uncomfortable. Don’t do it to impress your boss or your teammates. Do it because you want to make the final approval process easier, and do it to learn how this decision maker operates.
Do it because no one else will.
Difficult people are often misunderstood. They’re difficult because their job requires them to be detail oriented and they have stake in the outcome of certain activities or projects. They don’t care how much time you spent on an activity. They care about the outcome.
If you can figure out what makes them tick through early difficult conversations, you’ll not only have better answers early on, but also a relationship with someone who others refuse to connect with — or can’t.