Working with Difficult People

Working with Difficult People


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Working with Difficult People by William Lundin, Kathleen Lundin

Working with difficult people can reduce your morale, threaten your productivity, deplete your energy, and waste your time. But you don't have to be helpless in the face of other people's craziness! Knowing how to handle coworkers' disruptive behavior is one of the most important career skills you can have, allowing you to become a more valuable employee and a more self-reliant person.

Working with Difficult People defines nine fundamental types of difficult people and gives you a complete system for opening lines of communication, resolving differences, and avoiding office headaches. This book teaches you how to: Understand your own reactions to different kinds of difficult people, Explore the interrelationship between yourself and the problematic employee-whether it's a boss, fellow coworker, or someone you manage, Practice healthier responses to those who make your life miserable.

You'll find out how to proactively manage your relationships with those who are mean and angry, suspicious, pessimistic, shy, narcissistic, overly competitive, controlling, and more. Extensively updated, this revised edition includes an action plan for preparing for encounters and confrontations as well as all-new verbal self-defense tips, guidance on how to master power dynamics, and ways to differentiate between situational issues and psychological ones. A must-have guide to handling the most challenging coworkers, this is an indispensable guide for dealing with the most difficult people in the workplace.

About the Author:
William Lundin, Ph.D., and Kathleen Lundin are the authors of When Smart People Work for Dumb Bosses

About the Author:
Michael S. Dobson is aconsultant and popular seminar leader in communications, personal success, and project management. He is the president of his own consulting firm whose clients have included Calvin Klein Cosmetics and the Department of Health and Human Services

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814478387
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 11/07/1995
Series: Worksmart Series
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 7.03(w) x 9.99(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

William Lundin, Ph.D. and Kathleen Lundin are the authors of When Smart People Work for Dumb Bosses. They live in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

Michael S. Dobson is a consultant and popular seminar leader in communications, personal success, and project management. He is the president of his own consulting firm whose clients have included Calvin Klein Cosmetics and the Department of Health and Human Services. He is the author of several books including Managing Up. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Read an Excerpt


Which of these statements do you agree with?

Difficult people . . .

Make my life miserable.

Reduce my morale.

Get me angry.

Deplete my energies.

Make me feel helpless.

Ruin a good thing.

Make me scream.

Affect my productivity.

Waste my time.

Are insidious.

And that may be only the beginning. Dealing with someone else's irritating behavior can really waste your time and sap your energy. For many of us, dealing with the stress and frustrations of other people has become so commonplace that it is considered normal—the way things are.

Well, things don't have to be difficult. You can do something positive about difficult people in your workplace. This book will show you how to remake your attitude and behavior. The difficult person will still be there, but you will be less of a target. You, not the other person, will be in charge of the interaction.

The spread of restructuring and downsizing has increased the amount of stress most employees have to cope with today because their future is less certain than it was in the past. And at the same time, employers are asking workers to produce more than ever before, with fewer people to share the workload. It's no wonder that people are becoming difficult to deal with.

What have you noticed in your own workplace? Are your coworkers becoming touchier? More easily angered? More suspicious? Are they on edge? This state of affairs is all too common, perhaps the unavoidable result of the rapid rate of change in today's workplace and society in general.

In this unsettled environment, knowing how to handle difficult people and their disruptive behavior is one of the most important skills you can have. It will help you become a more valuable employee and a more self-reliant person. By mastering the techniques set out in this book, you will increase both your energy and optimism. You'll see how to overcome the hurdles thrown down by difficult people and how to develop skills that can enrich both your work and private life.


Some people are and always will be difficult; their irritating behavior is fixed deep within their personalities. Others—in fact, most people—are upsetting to us only from time to time. But unless you know the person very well, it's not easy to recognize the difference—whether the annoying behavior is deep-seated or mostly situational—nor should you try. Your concern is how to handle disruptive behavior by getting a fresh fix on your own attitudes and reactions, not figuring out underlying causes of the other person's difficult behavior.

While you cannot (and should not) expect to become a counselor to your coworkers, you can become more sensitive to them and learn how to befriend a coworker in need. Specifically, this book explains a system that will teach you to:

• Understand your reaction to a difficult person.

• Explore your attitudes and why you react as you do.

• Practice healthier responses to those who are making your life miserable.

To do our best work, we all need a level playing field, free of snares, thickets, traps, and drive-by emotional shootings. This book will help you create that level playing field by exploring specific ways to approach and respond to difficult people.


There are countless difficult behaviors, and you can learn to deal with all of them. We have selected nine examples of difficult people taken from our case histories as teaching models. These case studies will help you see the difficult person as a reactive human being. He or she will be presented through the eyes of a coworker who has come to us for help and advice.

You will learn how to handle the difficult person by "listening in" to the questions, answers, comments, and advice between one of us (Kathy or Bill) and the coworker seeking help. We will also use exercises to help the advice seekers to understand themselves better and occasionally interrupt the dialogue to add our own commentary and interpretation.

You are about to join us on a one-day adventure as we sort out difficult-people problems presented to us as a result of an ad we ran. You will learn, and remember, by watching and doing.

Here's the ad we ran:

Difficult People Ruining Your Life?

Bring us your problems. We'll show you how to handle them. Are you facing someone's anger and resentment? Is your coworker too suspicious? Does your supervisor treat your ideas with cynicism? Is your team leader apathetic?

Aren't people listening? Is that aggressive, competitive guy getting all the rewards and attention? Do you come home washed-out and frustrated?

Our doors open at 8:00 A.M. No appointment is necessary; just show up with your story. The service is free under one condition: that you promise to do the exercises we recommend.

The next day we looked out our office window, and you would have thought we had advertised a free vacation for two. "Maybe," we said, looking for a reason for the massive turnout, "that's what navigating life is all about—learning how to work with difficult people."

Table of Contents

Introduction     1
How Difficult Are You?     5
Stop, Look, and Listen     8
Maximizing Your Power     13
It's Not (Always) Personal-It's (Often) Business     18
Planning Your Strategy     23
Working with Difficult Superiors     27
Working with Difficult Subordinates     30
Corporate Culture and Difficult People     34
Mean and Angry     38
Suspicious     48
Pessimistic     56
Cynical     65
Shy and Quiet     72
Narcissistic     79
Extremely Competitive     86
Overcontrolling     95
Overly Flattering     105
Lessons: Handling All Kinds of Difficult People     114
Index     117

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