Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we stayed in our lane, liked each other, supported and encouraged each other, felt confidence in our leadership team, and did what was best for the team and the organization?
So, why is it that difficult people seem to block that path of happiness and contentment for so many? In the workplace, why doesn’t the leadership team address difficult behavior in a timely manner, or in some cases, address it at all? And, why does this bother you so much?
I am constantly hearing the above questions from friends and clients on a daily basis.
Isn’t it mind-blowing that one persons difficult behavior can negatively affect so many people in different ways? It can be a physical, mental, or emotional reaction. It can change your mood, consume your thoughts, rob you of your time, and affect your work performance. And, the longer the behavior continues to not be addressed the longer it will continue to be perceived as tolerated... AND, from the “difficult” persons point of view, if nothing is being brought to their attention nothing needs to change. What a pickle!
Let me take off my “HR Hat” now and put my on “Coaching Hat”. OK, lets assume you do not have effective leadership on board that handles difficult behavior accordingly. What can you do to stay positive and focused amid all the turmoil?
The first question you need to ask yourself is “what is it about the behavior (not the person) that bothers me so?” You need to look inward and get to the root. Is it their tone, delivery, words, actions, work performance or ethics? Is something they are doing or saying compromising your values and core beliefs? Once you figure that out then you can start moving forward.
Secondly, is the “difficult person” even aware that their behavior is negatively affecting others and the environment? On some occasions the person in question was not aware that their behavior was causing such an uproar because no one told them! Bring it to their attention and address the issues in a constructive, factual, non-threatening and solutions-driven way so the person is actively open to listening to you and correcting the behavior.
It is also crucial to be able to confidently go to someone of authority (boss or HR) to discuss the work-related issue to diffuse the situation and provide win-win solutions. If this is more of a personal matter, then a trusted friend in which you can confide truly helps. Sometimes you really need to just get out all of the toxic energy you have built up! It is also beneficial to get a different perspective of the matter – that takes you out of the “center” so you are able to see the bigger picture with different points of view.
Thirdly, It is important to set boundaries for yourself. It is next to impossible to control other people and their behavior, but you can control your reaction to it. Remember, what people say is about THEM. How we react to it is about US!
Understand that you need to look after yourself (self-care), and these situations can use up so much of your energy that you find yourself depleted by end of day. It is important to focus on your priorities and activities and surround yourself with like-minded people.
Finally, reframe (change your perception) how YOU are looking at these “difficult” people. Pay attention to all the negative thoughts that enter your mind created by how their behavior is affecting you, and then spin it another way. I tell clients to ask themselves “What would your best friend say to you in this situation?” or “What would you tell your child if they were in your shoes?” It is very interesting how the dialogue immediately changes and turns more positive and constructive when we look at things differently…
When you hear yourself constantly repeating phrases in anger or frustration, take a breath, go for a walk, or reach out for help. Look at the big picture – know this is one moment in time, understand the root of your anger, remember the trigger, determine appropriate steps, then give yourself a break and remember how fabulous you are!
There may be extreme cases when you decide to walk away – from a place of work, or from someone in your life. But if you are dealing with constant toxicity it may be time to reevaluate what is most important to you and what is in YOUR best interest.