Most of us spend as much time — or more — at work as we do with our families. And just like families, there are always people at work who will drive you up a wall. They could be hostile or critical, procrastinators or bad communicators, manipulative or ego-maniacal.
How to handle those sometimes tricky personalities is the basis of Working With Difficult People: Handling the Ten Types of Problem People Without Losing Your Mind, which was written two decades ago by Amy Cooper Hakim and her grandmother Muriel Solomon. The book recently received an update that now takes into account technology, generation gaps, narcissism and other issues that weren’t originally in the book.
Hakim joined Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia and answered questions from callers about their own workplace challenges, which included bad-tempered bosses and sneaky subordinates. Here are some highlights.
What to do about negative gossipers
Amy Cooper Hakim: If somebody does try to share gossip with you, you can say, “Thanks so much, but I really need to get back to my work.” Or, “If you want to talk to me about X, I’m available. Otherwise I have this deadline.”
And you can say so with a smile so you don’t appear to be the person who doesn’t want to participate. But the sooner that you step away from it, the happier that you’ll be.
How to win over a bosses you don’t get along with
Hakim: You want to make sure that you feel safe. If you do not feel safe in your environment, then that’s something separate.
If you feel that you can tolerate it or that you want to tolerate it and want to try further, then you need to put on a happy face. You need to try to win your boss over by using any opportunity possible to praise him, not in a disingenuous way but rather in a sincere and appropriate way.
For instance, if he’s collaborative, then you want to say, “Hey, I really appreciate when you (collaborate). This helped me to do my job better.” You have to make sure it’s sincere. For those little glimpses of times when he actually does something that makes you feel good or that helps you with your job, let him know.
Similarly, if you feel trapped, take a breather. Take a walk outside. Close your door. Don’t feel the need to quickly respond all the time to any of his demands.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview.