Working with difficult people … can it be done?

I was unloading a UPS trailer during a blizzard in Wisconsin, it was cold, and I did not like the trailer rattling in the wind. Some snow was blowing through the cracks of the trailer that was backed on the dock. The temperatures outside were minus 12, and the wind gusts were over 50 mph. This blizzard started shortly after we reported for work. Drivers started calling in to work at 4:30 AM wondering if they should show up with the weather conditions the way they were.

I listened to the supervisor tell them that they had better show up; if the unloaders and pre-loaders showed up, so should they! This supervisor used us to make the package drivers show up to work by using guilt on them. This particular supervisor had problems with just about everyone at work, the drivers, sorters, unloaders, and pre-loaders. I’ve seen him get into shouting matches with part-timers, and drivers! You could not reason with this guy. He was the most negatively talked-about boss I have ever worked for! He was hated by just about everyone at this center.

As the storm grew in intensity, the center manager, called my boss and said that you are to call the drivers and let them know, no one will be going out into the storm and to stay home! My boss was upset and slammed the phone down on his boss. I thought that this is an interesting scenario, what about all of us who are at the center? Will we be stranded for most of the day? Someone suggested that we be sent home, and he said, NO! I thought to myself — if we still had power, heat, and snacks in the vending machines, I would be OK with whatever he decided.

I went outside to help guide the trailers being backed on to the docking doors, and it was extremely cold, the wind cut through my jacket and through my soaked wet t-shirt. As I was yelling through the wind to let the tractor trailer driver know to keep backing up, my supervisor scared the daylights out of me, by yelling at me, we were not backing the trailer up fast enough! Here is my boss, not listening to a word I said, about snow drifts, ice, and zero visibility. He looked at me and said “listen Mr., we are going to have talk when you get back into the building.

When I returned from helping back the trailer on to the docking doors, he yelled my name, and demanded that I follow him to his office. My other co-workers, started laughing, and teasing me as I walked by them. What could I say? I hadn’t ever been called into his office before. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, so, I walked into his office, and he slammed the door behind me.

I then listened to him, berate me, attack me and my work ethics, then he started calling me names. I was 23 years old going to college and had a family. I had never been treated like this in any job I worked. I was never late, never a problem for any boss I had. I was considered a great employee. I listened as he continued to make personal digs at me. When he was done, he asked if I had to say anything. I looked him in the eye, and said something I have never said before. Are we talking about the same employee? I then let him know – without yelling – show me one bad report on my work record. Let’s ask the center manager if he would agree with you about my work performance. I then asked him, have I ever been late for work? You never had a complaint before about me, why now?

After reasoning with him, and pointing out the attacks on me personally, he began to understand it was hurting the moral on the early shift at UPS. He became friendlier towards the part-timers. He even started to joke around, and the drivers noticed a big change in his behavior towards them. One of the keys is try to develop a relationship with the people who managers, or bosses. Get to know them personally. Ask about their families, kids, hobbies, what they do for fun. That goes a long way in making friends and respect. Communication is very important in decreasing difficult people. Here are my tips for the work place and home.

Don’t get into personal issues, like politics and religion, ex-spouses. If you feel that an argument is about to happen, then leave or change the subject, no reason to be the subject of verbal abuse. A while back, I had a person ask me what church I attended while waiting in line for placing an order at Burger King. I told him, and then he proceeded to blast my church. I learned a big lesson that day. Don’t go there!

When you deal with difficult people, trying to change the other person’s mind, will not work. They will see it as you trying to control them and the way they think. Usually, when you get into an argument, you’re just inviting someone to tell others about how defensive you are. Then people will start to be critical of you, not a good thing! They will tell others about their opinion of you and how hard it is to work with you.

If you don’t like the way your discussion is going, then let them know politely that you will not accept abusive behavior. We all have our boundaries, and why keeping them is important to us and explain why. This should resolve most conflicts with your boss or co-worker.

Most work relationships that have problems are due to personal differences between co-workers, not that one of the people is bad. Some people have different styles of work ethics. One may be by the book while others may be a fly by the seat of your pants. When you sit down and talk, most people will accept the other co-worker as long as they talk out their concerns.

When I find co-workers that are difficult to work with, I try to develop a good relationship with them. It takes time, but in most cases I will focus on their positive traits. I want to build them up, and let them know they are appreciated. When that happens I have made a new friend at work. They are easier to work with. I am sincere when I build relationships; I try to make lifetime friends.

Remember, don’t think the other co-workers negative traits don’t exist, because they will always be there. Be careful about sharing your inner most thoughts to the town crier, gossips love to share. Co-workers who don’t like you will use any ammunition to get at you. Keep secrets to yourself. If you follow this advice, you will be ahead in the long run!

Working with difficult people is hard to do; it parts friends, and causes deep wounds in the work place. If you need help in resolving differences with a boss or co-worker, you can contact Dr. Mike for assistance. Do you have someone that you need to have a better relationship at work, and don’t know how? Is there unresolved anger towards a co-worker? Do you need help in healing a broken relationship at work or at home? If there is, call Dr. Mike.