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Why Difficult People Get Away with Being Difficult

We've all encountered difficult people at some point in our lives. They may be rude, confrontational, or just plain unpleasant to be around. When we encounter them at work, it can be especially challenging, as we're often expected to work collaboratively with them.

But what do you do when one of your coworkers refuses to engage with a difficult person and would rather have others walk away than address their inappropriate behavior?

Recently, I had a coworker who faced this very dilemma. We were working on a project with a colleague who had a reputation for being difficult to work with. This person was argumentative, dismissive of others' opinions, and had a tendency to belittle others in meetings. My coworker, let's call her Sarah, found this person's behavior unacceptable and didn't want to waste her time engaging with them. Instead, she preferred to have others walk away and let the difficult person continue with their behavior.

At first, I was surprised by Sarah's approach. I thought that as professionals, we had a responsibility to address inappropriate behavior and work collaboratively with our colleagues. But as I thought more about it, I realized that Sarah's approach was not necessarily wrong. After all, everyone has their own way of dealing with difficult people, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

However, I also realized that Sarah's approach was not necessarily the best one either. By letting the difficult person continue with their behavior, Sarah was essentially condoning it and allowing it to persist. And by having others walk away, she was potentially creating a toxic environment where people felt uncomfortable speaking up or sharing their ideas. So what can we do when we encounter difficult people at work? Here are a few tips:

  • Set boundaries: If someone's behavior is making you uncomfortable or is crossing a line, it's important to set boundaries and let them know what is and isn't acceptable.

  • Be assertive: Don't be afraid to speak up and share your opinions, even if they differ from the difficult person's.

  • Stay calm: It's easy to get emotional when dealing with difficult people, but staying calm and composed can help diffuse tense situations.

  • Focus on the issue, not the person: When addressing inappropriate behavior, focus on the behavior itself rather than attacking the person.

  • Seek support: If you're struggling to deal with a difficult person, reach out to a trusted colleague, manager, or HR representative for support.

Remember, dealing with difficult people at work is never easy, but it's important to address inappropriate behavior and create a respectful, collaborative environment for everyone. By setting boundaries, being assertive, and seeking support when needed, you can navigate challenging situations and work effectively with even the most difficult colleagues.


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