Difficult Personalities in Work Situations

This has been a rough week. I had way more business meetings than I find comfortable. But more than that, two of them were very difficult.

The first was a case of my delivering less-than-rosie information. It’s not fun to do that. These people paid for my professional opinion. I’m obligated to tell them. And while I didn’t sugar coat, I delivered the information as kindly as I could. I’m not sure that anything would have changed the outcome.

While I’m incredibly irritated, I can’t just point to an individual in that first meeting and say, “you suck.” The second meeting would certainly give me that opportunity.

The second group of people was wonderful with the exception of one soul who seems to take pleasure in being blunt, domineering, contrary and abrasive. Because I was facilitating a group session, I had to manage around his personality. I believe the session was successful in spite of him. Yet, I’m sure that the results would have been much better had he remembered that the rest of us are people, not his subjects.

One amusing point: This gentleman lectured me on excuses and results, talking about how he doesn’t need my excuses; he just needs my results. I started to say something like, “I apologize for backtracking to ask for this…” when he cut me off with a well rehearsed speech about how e≠r, but that r=r (e being excuses or explanations and r being results. Here’s the thing. He’s so into results, just apparently not enough to engage in teamwork through the process to get the best results possible in the session.

A second more humbling and less amusing point: I lost sight of the very thing I wanted him to do – to see us as people. As soon as I recognized that he was sabotaging the session, I saw him as an object. And, in that one simple attitude shift, I participated in creating undesirable outcomes – a patriarchal lecture, a difficult extraction of information, a general feeling of exhaustion and annoyance for all the participants.

Here’s what I wonder: If I had been able to maintain my perspective of this individual as a person with feelings and needs, could I have produced better results? And, now to a less “nice” wondering, how do abrasive people keep jobs – and move up the ladder? How does one deal with a bully in working situations without becoming a bully oneself?