School Business Affairs November 2020

34 NOVEMBER 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS asbointl.org Strategies for dealing with difficult people. Improving Workplace Relationships By Nan Wodarz, Ed.D. MANAGEMENT BRIEFCASE D o some people simply drive you crazy? Does the very sound of their footsteps down the hall set you off? Do you want to bolt out the back door when you hear a certain per- son’s voice? Each of us has met at least one person who evokes a fight or flight response in us. It is our body’s way of telling us that deep down we simply do not like that person. This can happen for many reasons, but the chances of our being able to “get over it” are limited. Rather, we need to find ways to main- tain cordial, productive relationships with these people, especially if they are fellow team members, supervisors, or those direct reports with whom we must work closely. Strategies for Engagement The most common strategy for dealing with an irritating colleague is avoidance. While this might be the easiest, most nonconfron- tational option, it rarely is effective in the workplace. In reality, it is difficult to contin- ually avoid certain individuals, and it drains our emotional energy. Daniel Goleman, the co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers Uni- versity, tells us that the first step in working with difficult people is to manage our feel- ings. He suggests that we try to focus on our own reaction rather than fixating on how the other person is acting. We cannot con- trol another’s actions—we can only control how we react to them. Goleman has a few other suggestions: Accept that you will not like everyone. The expectation that we will like everyone we encounter and they will like us is simply unrealistic. Acknowledge that you clash with certain individuals and do your best to remain professional in your workplace deal- ings with them. Keep your feelings to yourself. Toxic environments are the result of employees complaining about each other. While venting might offer an outlet for negative emotions, it undermines the effec- tiveness of the team. Further, griping at work can lead to you being labeled as the problem. A wise decision would be to “vent” to a therapist or significant other and keep the workplace positive and productive. Choose to work with them. Rather than avoiding unpleasant people, seek an opportunity to work closely with them. This is certainly counterintuitive; however, as you learn more about the other person, it’s possible that you will find that you are more compatible than you thought. Consider providing feedback. Another option might be to provide feed- back to your colleague. Although people always want to be seen in a favorable light, many times they are unaware of how they are perceived by others. Before going this route, be sure that you are a skilled communicator, you have no deep-seated biases against the individual, and that you are able to deliver feedback in a positive, productive manner. If you choose to follow this option, ensure the feedback is kind, empathetic, specific, and helpful. It should focus on behaviors that can be controlled and can lead to a greater level of self-awareness. Adopt a disinterested attitude. Some situations cannot be managed directly and might require that you emotionally detach yourself from your colleague. By KUES1/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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