The art of dealing with difficult people at work
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There’s nothing more unpleasant in the workplace than dealing with difficult people — be it a bad boss, colleagues who just make life miserable or a new hire who turns out to be the wrong fit.

But, how you assess and approach these issues can be the key to getting past them successfully.

This week, a number of LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on these topics, addressing sure signs of a not-so-great boss, how to cope with challenging colleagues and what to do when you’ve hired the wrong person for a key job.

Here’s what some of them had to say.

Bernard Marr, Chief Executive Officer at Advanced Performance Institute

“Let's face it; we have all seen and experienced bad bosses. There are the ones that bully, the ones that only care about themselves and their own career, the cowards that hide behind others,” wrote London-based Marr in his post Top 10 Tell-Tale Signs Of A Bad Boss.

In many cases, people are not aware of why their bosses are, well, bad, explained Marr.  Among his top 10 signs and types of bad bosses:

  • The Coward - a boss that takes on no accountability and often hides behind others
  • The Incapable - a boss that has been promoted beyond his or her capabilities, has no clue how to do the job and has lost all respect of subordinates and co-workers
  • The Plagiarizer - a boss that takes credit for other people's work or ideas and passes it off as his own
  • The Bad Communicator - a boss that is unable to communicate anything effectively, be it the corporate strategy or individual performance feedback

“When you get a boss with one or maybe two of the signs then you can usually manage around them,” wrote Marr. But a boss that shows several of the 10 bad-boss types can be impossible to work with.

Deepak Chopra, Founder of the Chopra Foundation

At work and in life, the “path to success can be derailed by difficult people,” wrote Chopra in his post How to Handle Difficult People.

“Everyone has a store of coping mechanisms that we resort to when we find ourselves in stressful situations. Difficult people force us to fall back on our coping mechanisms. Some of us placate, others confront. Some balk, others become aggressive. When these first-response tactics don't work... you have to dig deeper into yourself and find a better strategy,” Chopra wrote.

Among the three solutions Chopra suggested: just walk away. That’s easier said than done, he explained. “Too many people stick around when they shouldn't... You are treading water, hoping that the dreaded day will never come when you have to sever ties. The thought of separation causes you anxiety,” he wrote.

So when should you walk away from a difficult person in the office or otherwise?  “If you know the difficult person isn't going to change, and if you've examined the unhealthy and healthy choices involved in putting up with them, you have a good foundation for making the right choice,” he wrote. “You will be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and recognition that moving on was healthy and productive.”

Liz Ryan, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Human Workplace

In HELP! I Hired the Wrong Guy, Ryan advised a reader who has realized the person he hired for a key job three months ago turns out to be the worst hire he’s ever made.  The bad hire isn’t up to the tasks of the job, focuses on the wrong things and doesn’t take direction.  So what’s the reader to do?

First, she wrote, realize that “Mistakes are good. We learn from them, although it can be painful learning.” Next, the goal is to clear the way for hiring the right person into the job.  To do that, Ryan suggested first approaching the company’s human resource manager to explain the issue. 

Then, be clear with the bad hire. “You aren't interested in writing some stupid 90-day action plan. Your gut is speaking loudly now, the way it does when you ignore its quieter nudges,” she wrote. “But you hired him, so you owe him. Six weeks pay is reasonable for three months of work,” she wrote.

But the key, Ryan explained, is to have the bad-fit employee leave without him feeling the need to badmouth you — or your company. That will clear the way for a new hire and keep the company’s reputation intact, she wrote.

Other Influencer topics

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief at The Huffington Post Media Group wrote that worker burnout is the “disease of our civilization,” and explained that “stress is costing US businesses an estimated $300 billion every year.”

Is there a simple solution to youth unemployment? Eric A Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens USA suggested apprenticeships as an answer, pointing to the 10,000 paid apprentices the multinational engineering and electronics conglomerate employs.

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