How To Deal With Difficult People In Your Career

Don't stoop to their level

Businessman covering his ears with his fingers,  businesswoman speaking behind him
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By Leslie Truex

It happens to everyone. You have a colleague at work who wants things his way or the highway. Or you have a client who's never happy. There is no escaping difficult people at work or in business. More challenging still is the fact that you're not likely to say or do anything to make them change. All you can do is be professional and follow these steps to dealing with difficult people.

Keep calm

It's a challenge not to get upset, annoyed, frustrated or angry at difficult people, but doing so doesn't change anything. It won't make them be less difficult or you feel less negative. In fact, allowing your negative feelings full reign makes it difficult to problem solve and stay rational. The only option to avoid escalating the difficult person's behavior is to remain calm. Deep breaths and self-talk are the best ways to prevent negative feelings from taking over.

Be respectful

While difficult people may not have earned respect, you'll do much better dealing with them if you show it. There is a saying that you can attract more people with sugar than vinegar, and it's true. Responding to difficult people with negativity only makes it easier for them to dismiss you. Showing respect can sometimes diffuse conflict and open the conversation up to negotiation. You can show respect by listening and reflecting. Listening to rants or complaints and then reflecting back what was said, you show respect and allow the difficult person to feel heard.

Be professional

Showing respect doesn't mean you have to agree with or give in to the difficult person. You can share your thoughts and ideas as well. Hopefully, if you've shown respect, the difficult person will have an open mind to hear your views a well. You can increase this chance by expressing your ideas in a professional manner. Avoid showing frustration or annoyance as you respond to the person. After reflecting what you heard, stay calm as you share your thoughts or feelings on the subject.

Focus on the work/solution

Difficult people often use personal verbal attacks on you or other people to drive their point across. Avoid getting drawn in to the drama and angst of office politics by focusing on the work or how to solve the problem at hand.

Live your brand

Your personal brand is created through your action. At no time is your brand best present than in challenging times and dealing with difficult people. Remember what you want your brand to be and how you want your colleagues or customers to think of you. While the difficult person may never recognize your value, others who are involved or watching from the outside will.

Leslie Truex is a career design expert who has been helping people find or create work that fits their lifestyle goals since 1998 through her website Work-At-Home Success. She is the author of "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and "Jobs Online: How To Find a Get Hired to a Work-At-Home Job". She speaks regularly on career-related topics including telecommuting and home business.

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Some people are just not happy with there lives so they go to work and try to make everyone aroung then as unhappy as they are. Just smile at them. That gets them every time.

May 18 2014 at 9:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My DAD has this issue.
He is a 40% service connected VA rated Combat Veteran (2005-2006) of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He has been working for KR co. for Over 28 yrs.He has been back to work over 6 years since returning home. He has been demoted 2 times due to his injuries, He is not able to do the job he did before he went to Iraq. He was recently transferred to a new location because his new supervisor (of 3 months time) had a problem with My DAD confronting him on referring to My DAD as a PATHETIC CRIPPLE and being LAZY! My DAD has been at the previous location since 2008 with 2 different supervisor's and 3 different store manager's with NO PROBLEMS. My DAD is at the new location less than 3 weeks and My DAD is terminated for being a Verbal/Physical Threat to Customer's,Management staff & Fellow employee's! My DAD talked about a video game called Assassins's Creed," the ONLY weapons used are BLADE family and he gets in an out after killing the target with out getting caught." My DAD also was overheard asking someone "I like to go to the shooting range after a bad day at work (in the winter), would you like to join me?" I am asking for some help in Who to contact They are treating My DAD like He is going to SNAP from his PERCEIVED PTSD!!!
Now the KR co. wants ALL of My DAD's MILITARY, VA and Private Medical records!!!
Do you have any ideas?

May 18 2014 at 8:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to scooter's comment

Go to the VA for help and support. If necessary, consult and employment lawyer. The American's with Disabilities Act should provide some protections for him. Good luck.

May 18 2014 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if the people lording it over your dad are a couple of decades younger than him. Some younger people have been raised in a touchy feely take offense at everything environment, as well as having had their minds bent by therapists since age eight, so they think they know what everyone's problem is. The company shouldn't be able to get your dad's private medical records, but to be safe, he should not sign anything that has the word "release" on it. Taking his story to the media will bring a lot of unwanted attention to those overwrought, post adolescent cry babies who now fill management positions. Which is what I think is needed now.

May 20 2014 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If that difficult person is your boss and she's dressed like a man - you lose

May 18 2014 at 7:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David S.

If that "difficult" person is your boss or an important client, then you have no choice: deal with it or get another job.

May 18 2014 at 7:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some people are difficult because rules have been side stepped or ignored and they end up having to pick up the pieces or slack left behind by ignorant or arrogant coworkers. Be respectful and ask the difficult person how the task should be completed instead of just dismissing them as a certifiable not judge the book by the cover read a couple pages first.

May 18 2014 at 6:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just smile and act like your going to walk away and at that moment they will have their guard down , quickly turn around and sucker punch them under the chin as hard as you can and also kick them while their down, works every time. You may not have a job but at least you got the satisfaction of knocking the sucker out. And also the wussy will probably try and press charges but who cares.

May 18 2014 at 5:28 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Start your own business and tell them all where to go!

May 18 2014 at 5:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree that many people in position and too much power over others should wake up and quit treating the people who work under them as non-people and invisible. We are the ones who help them succeed. We just have so good advice and thoughts that would help the companies that we work for. I really struggle with anger when dismissed and by thoughtless people who have never learned to treat their employees with respect. Many of us have very strong work ethics and feel not respected for working our back sides off.

May 18 2014 at 2:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There are no problems ....only solutions
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May 18 2014 at 1:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They are the ones with the problem. You don't have to love them or even care. Sometimes people are just plain nuts and shouldn't be taken seriously. Once you've established this, give them plenty of room and tune them out. Observing them and their activities as you would watch a drama or comedy show helps.

May 18 2014 at 12:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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