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Managing Difficult People

“Variety is the spice of life.” This is especially true when it comes to people. If everyone thought the same way, innovation would die; but the differences that help inspire innovation can be some of the same things that create great strife in the work place as people’s personalities and ways of thinking clash. If you are already under the pressure that goes along with b

eing in risk management or decision analytics, the added stress of trying to manage what appear to be difficult people can seem overwhelming. By remembering a few key items, you can greatly reduce your own stress and calm the rough waters that often rage in the workplace.

First, avoid office gossip. Everyone deserves to start with a clean slate. By participating in gossip, you prejudice yourself and anyone else who may be around, either for or against the individual who is the topic of conversation. Thumper’s mother’s advice should be kept in mind, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This allows each person to start fresh. Once a word is spoken and opinions are formed, undoing the damage is close to impossible.

Second, perform a self-evaluation. Ask yourself why the other person rubs you the wrong way. Are you jealous? Then, you need to deal with your attitude. Does he or she remind you of someone or something from your personal history that you have a hard time dealing with? Again, that’s something for you to address, but at least you can move forward with knowledge. Being forewarned is forearmed. Do you simply have an instance of personality clashing? Do your best to get along in spite of your differences.

Third, get to know the other person. If you’re having problems getting along with an individual, treat it like you would any other problem, do some research. Get to know the individual. Go to lunch or get a cup of coffee with him or her. Your differences may disappear simply by getting to be on a more personable level with the other individual. Taking time build a relationship with those you work with can help smooth over a multitude of personality issues.

Lastly, create a buffer. If you still find you can’t work easily with an individual after trying all of the above, simply give yourself some space. Have another person act as the go-between so that friction is eliminated. The other individual acts like oil does to moving parts, providing the barrier to reduce the rubbing that wears the parts out.

Differences are a wonderful thing! Having everyone be identical would be very boring, and new ideas would die; but friction in the workplace is just as counterproductive. Finding ways to minimize the stress in relationships keeps innovation and productivity high.


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