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Do you work with a difficult person in your veterinary practice?

Posted in Operations @ Feb 19th 2015 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
Challenges Of Working With Difficult People

Why does working with some people have to be so hard?

A version of this post appeared in the AVNJ Vol 18, No 3

We’ve all worked with difficult people in the past and maybe you’re working with one right now.   

You know they ones I mean .... they're the ones who:

  • talk constantly and never listen;
  • always have to have the last word;
  • agree to everything but do nothing; 
  • criticize everything;
  • compete with the rest of the team for power or the spotlight;
  • undermine you in front of the boss;
  • are constantly negative (everything sucks – their job, the clients, the boss);
  • make snarky comments and call them ‘jokes’.

Sound familiar?

In a perfect world your boss or manager would see what was going on and do something about it – after all you’re not responsible for the behaviour of your team mates. But there may be many reasons why this may not happen.  Your ‘difficult’ team member may not show this behaviour around the boss; your boss may not work as closely with the employee so their behaviour is not an issue to them; they may accept the behaviour as ‘just who she is’; or on some level they may also fear the employee – or at least fear the inevitable conflict that will arise when the behaviour is called to question.

Whatever the reason, sometimes you just need to do something yourself. 

Ignoring the situation will not make it go away – it will often get worse, niggling away at you over time until the final little comment causes you to explode. 

So guess what?  It’s time to stop being nice and deal with the situation.

No one likes conflict but clearing the air and being honest about how you feel can make all the difference to your work environment.  It’s much better to deal with a potentially emotional situation while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control, rather than after you’ve exploded and everyone is looking at you as if you’re the problem.

Tips to help you work with a 'difficult' person

Here are some options you may want to consider using to help improve these difficult workplace relationships:

Start by examining yourself – are you overreacting? 

Be honest with yourself – have you had this problem before? Is a pattern emerging?  If so, talk the situation over with someone you trust to get their perspective. 

Negativity is a choice

If negativity is an issue remember that it's a choice and you can choose not to respond to any negative comments or simply counteract negativity with positive comments. 

People don't usually choose to be difficult

Most people don’t choose to be difficult and there is usually some underlying reason for their behaviour.  Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, assess and manage your own emotions as well as those of others.  A low EI means that some people may not be very good at recognising the impact their behaviour is having on others and they can be surprised and even horrified when someone explains how others are feeling around them.

You can choose to be pleasant

Try being pleasant and agreeable to the other person – sometimes we build up behavioural habits around others that we’re not even aware of which cause an equally habitual reaction from the other person.  Try asking them what they did on their weekend or offer to make them a coffee.

Explain the impact

Have a private discussion with the person and explain the impact of their actions on you.  When doing this make sure you use “I” messages which focus on your experiences of the situation rather than on attacking or accusing the other person. For example “I feel like I’m not doing my job properly when you....” rather than “You make me feel like an idiot when you....”.

Accept and move on

Ultimately you may need to accept that you may have no control over the system in which you work or over the behaviours of the other person. 

The only thing you do have control over is YOU.  

So you have a choice. 

Take control, review how you deal with these situations and work to change your reactions or learn to ignore and live with the situation.

So tell me in the comments section below - what's worked for you when dealing with a difficult team member or employee?

A version of this blog post appeared in the VNCA's AVNJ (The Australian Veterinary Nurses Journal) Volume 18 Number 3.

If you would like to receive this fabulous bi-monthly magazine then all you need to do is join the VNCA!  Click here for more information...



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