Dealing with different workplace personalities
by Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-CP
Most of us probably have come across unreasonable and difficult people in our lifetime. There may be difficult family members that some of you live with at home or perhaps you work with an emotionally exhausting co-worker who complains about everything.
In the March 1, 2016 issue, I wrote an article about how not to take things personally. Essentially, what other people think and do are beyond our control. What we can control, however, is the way we think. When we take things personally, we give others power over us by influencing our thoughts and allowing us to negatively respond to certain situations.
The workplace is full of different personalities. While you may find most of them are easy to get along with, there will always be one or two people who you may find deliberately annoying. In my experience of dealing with workplace conflict, the three most common personalities that always come up are, “the complainer,” “the gossip,” and “the bully.”
There are ways to deal with such personalities, but keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb, and may not necessarily apply to a particular situation.
These are the Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers in the workplace. Being optimistic is always an issue for them. As a result, they bring people down with their expressions of displeasure with the workplace. Negativity is where they draw their energy. The best way to tackle this personality is to run away from it. Negative thinking is contagious and it spreads like wildfire if you associate long enough with this type of philosophy. Once it consumes you, it will be very difficult not to agree with it. Remember, nothing is more encouraging to a complainer than agreement from another person.
These are the attention-seekers in the workplace. They want to have the spotlight on them at all times. In fact, how people get sucked into this is the fact that they may not personally like co-workers who gossip, but they may enjoy listening to some of the stories they have to tell. The problem is that gossips aim to make themselves look interesting through the sharing of personal information of other people. One way to shut a gossip down would be simply not to listen to their stories. You can politely say something like, “I’m not interested in listening to this,” and leave the conversation. Another way would be to defend people who are not present in the conversation. If you happen to catch them talking about another person, take a stand for that person and point out how we can’t always be sure whether or not the information is true.
These are the personalities that always have the need to be right. Adult bullies act out for the same reasons that kid bullies do. They are masking their own shortcomings and feelings of insecurity through attacking others. Psychotherapist Jenise Harmon at PsychCentral.com suggests, bullying is not about you. Roger S. Gil, a clinically trained marriage and family therapist, further explains that, “Every bully I’ve counselled has had serious insecurity issues. Many times it’s because they themselves were mistreated or made to feel inadequate in some way and the easiest way to feel empowered is to pick on someone that they perceive as weaker.” The most effective way of dealing with a bully, as difficult as it is, would be to stand up to them and respectfully tell them that if the behaviour does not stop, you will see other avenues to resolve the situation (i.e. speaking with a manager or supervisor).
“Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” – Dave Willis
- Shepell-FGI Wellness Seminar – Dealing with difficult personalities
This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.
Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-CP is a Certified HR Professional through the International Personnel Management Association. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She also holds the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management). E-mail her at email@example.com.
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