So you’ve been tasked to work in teams. The boss has assigned you together with some other team members to work on a very important milestone project. Because you show the most promising leadership skills and amiability, the boss assigns you to lead this group. As fate would have it (fate has a wicked sense of humour), you’re pooled in together with the most difficult person in the office. As if introducing himself/herself, this person proceeds to say “I don’t work well in groups. I find that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth!” You are off to a rocky start indeed. Yikes!
At some point in our careers, we will all find ourselves in this situation. Besides, we don’t have to like each and every one of our co-workers, we just have to have a good working relationship with them in order to accomplish tasks. Looks like you should suck it up and start working with the difficult person. I know this is easier said than done, and people will avoid working with that difficult person if they can – even leaving him/her out if they have to. However, that person is most probably in the company because he or she has a special set of skills that your manager thinks would help you reach your goal.
So what do you do in situations like these?
Keep your cool.
This is the most dispensed advice in any challenging situation. And why not? It reminds you to keep your emotions in check. It forces you to look at things objectively. Showing panic or frustration only makes this “less than ideal” situation worse. So remember to keep your cool.
Keep an open mind.
Practice empathy and compassion. Do you find yourself judging this person based on what you have heard about him/her? Maybe you’ve heard other co-workers say not so good things about him/her. Are these things founded on concrete reasons or are they just hearsay? Because if not, they’re just gossip. Are you fanning the flames by believing them? Give him/her a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Seek it out.
Find the cause of trouble and start troubleshooting from there? What makes this person difficult to work with? Is it attitude? Is it poor work ethics? Do they lack the skills? There are reasons why people are deemed difficult. Most of the time, it’s just differences in perspective and working styles.
Do not shy away from responsibility and let the team know that you are working on a solution to make the working environment as conflict free as possible. The difficult person may not even know that other teammates find their behavior unsatisfactory. So, try to get all sides of the story. And if the person acts up, draw attention to the behavior and not the person. You can say “It is a challenge for me when you do the bare minimum on X (task) because I think that you can do better. Can you help me find out what we can do so that you feel more motivated to do X”?
As you can see from the tips above, these are all things that YOU can control. Don’t hand over the reigns to your perception to other people. You can control the narrative. If you can accomplish this, then you’re on your way to having a more manageable team and a smoother work relationship. How do you deal with difficult teammates? Let us know in the comments. As always, remember to stay humble and hustle hard.
Written by Jaie O. The Help