Professional Diplomacy: How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

Identify the Problem — Clarify what, precisely, is the problem. Acknowledge how the problem makes you feel and how it affects your ability to do your job.

Understand the Situation — 
Work from the assumption that people are doing their best. What factors may be making them act this way? In some cases, you can manage the problem “around” the individual. If not, it’s time to talk.

Start a Dialogue — Ask for a private discussion and share your perspective with the offender to encourage empathy, and be empathetic in return.

Work the Problem — How can the issue be resolved or improved? Focus on things you can change and agree on actionable steps.

Follow Up — Acknowledge and reinforce behavior changes that help, and keep nudging toward the behavior you want. If it’s not working, communicate your concern and suggest next steps.

Bring in the Boss — If the person is unwilling to change and you’ve done your due diligence, it may be time to speak with your manager and bring in some additional perspective. Frame the conversation around the issue as it affects your job.