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I was discussing the other day with members of my book club each one pouring out their hearts on how they are having challenges at work with their bosses, some colleagues, neighbours, partners and spouses.    It got me thinking, we all go through these situations one way or the other either as perpetrators or victims or both at different times or stages in our lives.  A bully at your work is difficult for you to face. He is demanding you do part of his job without pay or credit. How do you handle it? Your neighbours are constantly fighting. They wake you up in the middle of the night with their screams and curses. What do you say to them? Your father is unhappy about your career choice. He constantly criticizes your work and points out what he thinks you should do. How do you deal with him? Difficult situations are part of everyone’s life. Employers and employees can’t get along. Partners clash over money. Spouses cannot resolve disagreements. If you ignore these situations, they always get worse. Employees get fired, partnerships and marriages break up, everyone is miserable. Waiting and worrying, the most common “solution,” also allows the problem to get worse while giving you stress and shortening your life span. If you attack the person, at least you are trying to fix the problem. But attacks, rage or irrational anger gives you a bad name, makes people afraid of you and reduces honest communication. Disconnecting from the problem or from the person is not always wise or practical. Losing employees, supporters and friends because you needlessly disassociate from them may not reduce your stress.


We have 8 types of difficult people

  1. Openly Aggressive People: These people are the bullies who are often abusive and intimidating. They believe their “victims” are weak and deserve the treatment they give them. They are therefore stimulated by signs of weakness.

There are three subtypes in this group.
(a)  Sherman Tank: Attack not just your idea or project, but you personally as well,   Confrontational, pointed, angry and harassing. Look at sexual harassment in work places bosses that are bullies…

(b) Snipers Feel very strongly about how others should think and act…  Characteristics…    rude comments, biting sarcasm, attempts to make you look foolish.
(c) Exploder after initial calm explodes into uncontrolled ranting and raving. A nut case.

  1. Complainers: Feel overwhelmed by an unfair world; they always bring their problems to you

Complainers find fault with everything. These are fearful people who have little faith in themselves and others because they believe in a hostile world.  It can be difficult to recognize a true Complainer. They are skilled at starting problems in such a critical manner that it is hard to separate real problems from complaints. And people around them become defensive because they know the Complainer will be the first to blame them if something goes wrong. Complainers themselves feel powerless to correct the situations they complain about. Relying on others to fix the problem perpetuates their own belief that they are without blame or fault.


  1. Clams: characteristics No verbal feedback, No non-verbal feedback, say nothing.

These people react to questions you have posed, controversial statements you have made, and indeed any situation they deem disagreeable, by clamming up or saying nothing. Just when you want a response, they may grunt, give a no or yes or more likely say nothing.  It is difficult to discern a Clam from a quiet person. However, quiet people are not likely to avoid direct questions, whereas Clams are. For instance, you have asked a colleague to not park so close to your car in the company parking lot. A Clam will say nothing. A quiet person will at least respond in some way.  The biggest problem in dealing with Clams is you don’t know what the silence or lack of response means. You cannot tell what’s on their mind… scary!


  1. Super – Agreeable yes man: What is so difficult about communicating with someone who is always pleasant and supportive of your ideas? Nothing, until you want that person to do something for you.  Super-Agreeable want to be liked and accepted by everyone, so to achieve this they are outgoing, sociable and very personable. However, the danger here is they will agree with you about one thing and then agree with the next person whose ideas are contrary to yours. At work, the Super-Agreeable will volunteer to do every job and get none of them done.


  1. NO/negative Person: characteristics… Able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable, deadly to morale No/negative persons are extremely pessimistic, negative and more bitter than complainers. Usually, they feel defeated or powerless in regard to the situation. And the more you try to solve a problem or improve a situation, the more negative they become


  1. Know –it-All: Has a low tolerance for correction and contradiction.  Their characteristics are I know, I know more than you, I think I am better than you, I will tell you anything you want to know.    Apparently confident, often condescending; their claimed knowledge may be real or fake; and they are often poor listeners


  1. Maybe Person/staller: Procrastinates in hope that a better choice will present itself Indecisive, or Maybe Persons , are very helpful people; however, they put off making decisions which might upset someone. The serious problem here is that indecisiveness can work – most unmade decisions become irrelevant through time. Characteristics:    I do it later, I’ll let somebody else do it, I can’t do this until its perfect. For them, not making a decision is a compromise between being honest and not hurting someone


  1. The envious person: Envy of this type is fear by comparison. Feeling “less than”,” inferiority complex” because you perceive that someone else is “more than” in some particular area. It could happen when working on a project with your colleague, they might feel threatened by you or you might be seen as a threat to your immediate boss who might think you have an eye in his or her position. The jealous neighbour who questions every new car you buy, spreading rumours, cooking up stories …. The list is endless.


Do these ring any bells Spend time and ask yourself which one applies to you,  are you a culprit, a victim or both?

Food for thought

Conflict between people arises inevitably and we all have to be prepared to manage difficult relationships at home and in the workplace from time to time challenging people can turn a perfectly good day into a dramatic experience without any reason.

When walking away is not an option, what do you do? Next week I will  discuss  how to manage difficult people…