My husband and I had been chewing the cud about people we’ve worked with over the years and, as is so often the case, the difficult and challenging people came to mind more readily than the great people and the kind people.

We’ve both worked with people who have made life difficult and unpleasant for others, have made coming to work a chore and have put HR policies to the test.

We were musing about how much time we’ve spent on working out how to ‘get on’ in spite of others; working out how to deliver services, how to achieve performance targets, how to keep everybody motivated …. We were quite saddened by just how much time that has taken away from achieving the good stuff and the number of people that have been negatively affected along the way. 20% of the people take up 80% of the time was something I learned very early on in my working life, through observation as well as experience

What I’ve discovered through my self awareness research is ‘what you give out, you get back’. I recall one person who used to make people from a variety of professional backgrounds cry. They refused to accept they played any part in those emotions. My husband recently heard someone say ‘I don’t want this job to go like the last job’, when their performance figures are significantly lower than other staff. These views, ideas and responses have always made me ponder about people’a self awareness.

We all go to work with the aim of doing good things and have to accept there are people who may operate less kindly than others. How we respond is the key to our success. My advice on how to respond so that it allows us to keep showing up each day?

  1. Seek advice, guidance and support from others
  2. Find someone who will be a safe sounding board: a problem shared is a problem halved
  3. Give honest and constructive feedback to the person in question and give them an opportunity to build self awareness
  4. Be hard on the facts and soft on the people
  5. Accept that you may have to invoke HR policies and have difficult conversations
  6. Acknowledge that some people are not for turning and their capacity for change do not meet our expectations
  7. You can’t change others, you can only change yourself. You may have more options in what to do next than you first thought
  8. Human relationships can be amazing and they can be challenging. Getting on in spite of others is an art and not a science. Crafting your art can take years.

Good luck to everyone dealing with difficulties right now. You’ll have good days and bad days. Some days you’ll feel like you’re on top of it and some days you’ll feel like you’re going under.

Reach out for support and don’t go it alone