How to Deal With Difficult People

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2014 | Workplace Issues |

How to Deal With Difficult People

We all know them and work with them. Hopefully we don’t live with them but probably are related to some. So how do we deal with them? Let’s describe them first. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Abrasive Ann:

This personality type is irritating but not because she means to be a problem. Rather she is one of those unfortunate people that are just naturally abrasive. Abrasive Ann has no idea that she is abrasive. She means well but her delivery, i.e. voice tone and words are so abrasive, her coworkers shut her out. Abrasive Ann doesn’t understand the concept of “warm and fuzzy” and has no idea how to incorporate “warm and fuzzy” into her lifestyle. She gets on the other employee’s nerves.

Pity Party Pat:

Pity Party Pat, PP Pat for short, always has a reason why he can’t comply with the company rules. He worked all night so he can’t possibly comply with his company’s absenteeism rules. Just because the other co-workers can comply with the rules, means they are not as busy as he is. PP Pat undermines the co-workers morale. If he can get away with not following the rules, why should they?

In Outer Space Sandy:

In Outer Space Sandy, also known as La La Land Sandy, somehow manages to be unaware of what is going on around her. She can’t be held responsible for not cooperating, failing to follow the rules, or being no help whatsoever to her co-workers, because she wasn’t aware that there was a need/problem. “Wow!”, La La Land Sandy will say, “I didn’t realize there was a problem.” Outer Space Sandy didn’t realize the office was on fire, otherwise she would have helped. Outer Space Sandy’s co-workers are thinking, “Why does the boss let her get aware with this? She needs to wake up. I bet she doesn’t act like this when she is by herself.”

Secretive Seth:

Secretive Seth is the employee that everyone thinks is weird/odd so they excuse his behavior because he is weird/odd. No one knows what Secretive Seth is doing but he must be doing something important because the boss lets him get by. If you ask Seth what he is doing-that no one can see– he will revert to a Pity Party Pat and overload you with details of “everything” he is doing.

Her Way or You Get an Emotional Outburst Helen:

Her Way Helen will also jump to conclusions if she doesn’t get her way. She interrupts her co-workers. If her ideas are not accepted as the best, she will take it personally and pout or worse, get emotional. Her co-workers don’t take her seriously because they know she is so volatile emotionally. Even if she had a good idea, they would not hear it because they are so used to her being an emotional mess.


1. You Can’t Change Them. If you try, you will be frustrated. If you can leave, get out. If not, it may help for you to understand them.

Abrasive Ann just doesn’t realize how abrasive she is. When you find her irritating, remind yourself she doesn’t mean it. Congratulate yourself that you were not born with that type of personality.

Pity Party Pat is undisciplined and perhaps lazy. The reason he can’t follow the rules is because of his bad habits. If you are the boss, make him follow the rules. If not, just know his life is also out of control.

In Outer Space Sandy was probably spoiled as a child. She gets away with being in La La Land because she can. If she had to survive by being aware of her environment, she would perish. Again, just be glad you don’t live with her.

Secretive Seth has something going on in his life that you DON’T want to know about. There is a reason why he is secretive. You will open Pandora’s Box if you push him or try to figure out what he is doing. Some things are better off not knowing. Again, just be glad you are not like him.

Her Way Helen is an emotional mess. She doesn’t have control of her emotions. She means well and you need to overlook her emotional outbursts. Don’t let her push you around but most likely she is remorseful after she losing her emotional self. Be glad you are not an emotional mess like Helen.

2. Learn how to not let these People get you down. You can silently pity them, laugh at them or best of all remind yourself that you don’t want to be like them. Don’t take them personal. Repeat back what they say so they hopefully see how ridiculous they are. Stand up for yourself, but don’t feed into their insecurity by fighting with them. Leave work and hug your kids or your dog.

3. If you are the boss of these people, you have the ability to protect the rest of the group. You have the power to do something about these Difficult PEOPLE and you should. See more on this on my next blog ( “Tips for Employers and Supervisors for Dealing with Difficult People”)

Before you go make sure you are not an office jerk by taking this test.