How Do I Cope with Difficult People at Work?

Cope with Difficult People - Barracuda Staffing

Last week, we looked at strategies on how to handle an overwhelming workload; this week, we’ll address your place within the team/department/organization and how to cope when other employees’ behavior affects your own production. It’s a common scenario: your department has a seemingly impossible production deadline and every time you look up from your work, you see other people cutting corners, avoiding responsibility, or spending a lot of time doing nothing on the clock. It can make you feel helpless and demotivated when you see others sliding by doing the bare minimum; however, there are still plenty of things you can do to enhance your job satisfaction and reputation in a positive way.

We’ve worked through many situations while Contractors were on the job and have heard things such as:

“If my co-worker, who spends about 3 hours a day socializing or going to the bathroom, is going to get paid for 8 hours just like me, why should I try to work harder?”

“If I try to work harder than everybody else, my coworkers will say I’m trying to make them look bad.”

“Quality has it in for me, they are always scrapping my parts so there’s no point trying to work harder.”

“My supervisor plays favorites; some people here can get away with anything!”

In every case above there was an issue or a perceived issue, and a subsequent personal response from you. The most important thing to remember is that while you may not have the power to change the issue, you DO have the power to change the response. But why bother? To understand why, we need to step back and look at the bigger picture of your overall career. If you want to be the type of employee that shows up for a prescribed amount of time and takes home a paycheck at the end of the week, there is a good chance you will be doing exactly that same thing 10 years from now, and not making much more for your trouble. How many people around you have jumped from job to job trying to get a raise, always complaining and giving excuses about why things didn’t work out in place after place? If those people were making good money, they probably would not keep looking for a new job; chances are good they are barely getting by. Is that the same kind of life you want for yourself and your family?

What’s in It for You?

If there are things you want to accomplish, perhaps sending your kids to college one day or owning a house, or even getting a new truck, your ability to build the kind of life you want will be directly affected by your career, and your career will be directly affected by your attitude. Many people around you are struggling and unhappy, and will keep going from job to job unsuccessfully trying to get more pay when what they really needed was to dig in and change their response.

First Rule: Do No Harm

The first step in changing your response is to put the focus squarely back on your own job. If you feel your supervisor is unfairly targeting you, make sure you are following all company policies to the letter and then politely and genuinely ask your supervisor what you could do to improve. Treat that feedback as a positive chance to grow and build a better career. If you’re a machinist and Quality seems to be targeting you, then it’s time to figure out where the real problem lies without blaming others; get process and equipment advice from your supervisors and Quality to determine what exactly is failing and why, and come up with a plan to fix it without communicating blame or anger to anyone around you.

If you are in assembly, for example, and feel others are not as productive as you are, offer your coworkers a beer if they can beat your daily production, or do something to help create a more encouraging environment; if someone you had to deal with every day at work gave you the stinkeye or was rude to you, would it make you feel like working harder or working less? The answer is usually less, so don’t be the one contributing to feelings of ill will around the shop, because you’ll inadvertently be contributing to the very de-motivation you despise – instead, encourage, challenge, and overcome! As good as it may seem to feel to blame or “serve” someone you work with, always remember: “Every time you point a finger at someone, there are three more pointing back at you!” -Anonymous

Forbes offers some excellent advice on the matter, and points out that however you deal with this issue, the most important thing is to not make yourself look bad in the process:

If you decide you absolutely must speak to your supervisor about the matter, US News offers some good advice for how to go about it as tactfully as possible:

You only have so much energy in a day: find the problems you can solve and solve them instead of focusing on the things over which you have no control. In this way, you quietly become a positive example to your co-workers of someone who takes charge of their life and their career instead of complaining or making excuses. You develop a reputation as a level-headed problem-solver instead of being part of the problem. In the last blog, we talked about discussing your coworker’s inefficiency as more of a process issue rather than a personal vendetta; if one person’s lack of work ethic is affecting you, try to present your supervisor with different process options to get around the obstacle that person represents.

“Be the Change You Wish to See in the World” – Mahatma Gandhi

If some of your coworkers think they are fooling upper management by getting paid for not working, don’t make the same mistake and gamble with your own reputation; the amount of work ethic you display every day on the job could have a direct impact on whether it’s you looking for work in the next round of layoffs, or it’s you moving up to team lead or management because of your dedication to doing your best every day. Keep that 10- or 20-year goal in mind, and don’t give up on your dreams, even if some of the people around you may have given up on theirs!

Barracuda Staffing, Inc. cares about your success: check back next week for more tips on increasing your satisfaction in the workplace, and remember that one of the best things to have on your resume is Job Stability; however, if you are looking for a new place to spread your wings and grow into a leader in your department, we invite you to browse our current openings in Tulsa and surrounding areas, call to talk to a Recruiter, or simply submit your resume online today!