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Workplace training: Dealing with difficult colleagues

The main objective of any company or organization is to hire the most effective and qualified employees. However, this is not enough if they do not know how to deal with different personalities effectively.

As part of an effort to raise awareness about issues influencing production, Grand Cairo Library in Zamalek held a seminar on 8 August exploring how to deal with different types of difficult colleages in the workplace.

Aya Maher, a human resources professor at the American University in Cairo, talked about common communication challenges at work and in daily life. Maher began by mentioning that both Muslims and Christians could share spiritual moments, as both fast during this time; this should help them be more patient and tolerant in the workplace.

Maher pointed out that Egyptians are well known for their kindness and forgiveness. However, work and other stresses can make some people behave in aggressive or underhanded ways. Maher highlighted studies that concluded that some people are naturally active but become lazy, suddenly and without apparent reason. This can be characterized as "fatigue syndrome," resulting from negative energy from surrounding people.

Negative energy is not only the result of dealing with aggressive colleagues, it also happens when dealing with complaining, unpredictable, backstabbing, over-controlling or skeptical people. Behaviors can also be contagious and transfer to others, whether positive or negative.

"When doing surveys to measure employees' job satisfaction, I usually find the majority of complaints are related to relationships between colleagues," Maher explained. "As we cannot change others' personalities and convictions, we should learn how to deal with them and understand their keys. This is what makes a successful leader and person."

For example, in dealing with aggressive people, if attacked, don't counter attack, as this is exactly what they want. Instead, give them time to calm down: you can even drop something on the floor to distract their attention. You might also come across issues with a colleague whose problem is being too passive. In this case, make sure you're not infected by this and try to encourage him or her by giving the co-worker specific tasks to do.

Sometimes you wake up in the morning in a good mood with a huge amount of love and optimism, and you won't give anyone a chance to spoil your day, but what if there is someone who wants to? Some people are gloomy, exaggerating daily stresses, and always complaining.

In the beginning you might try to avoid these people or give them weak reasons why you can't spend much time with them, but putting an end to this dilemma is a must. Maher explains that you can tell those people in a polite and decent way that you have work to do or you are really distracted by their bad mood. Having a complaining person at work is very annoying, but you can try using a problem-solving approach to resolve it.

You can also interrupt and take control, giving them no chance to continue complaining. Religion should motivate toward better manners and more tolerance. People who think they would be happier getting more money or power at the expense of others are not acting religiously, which says that happiness cannot be directly attributed to certain achievements. It rather advocates satisfaction by a correct and honorable path in life.

A common problem is having a manager who mentions every single mistake and discourages employees. A practical solution is to frankly tell them how depressing such comments are and create an action plan for measurable tasks, rather than impressions. Everyone has reasons to be nervous and depressed; entertainment, sports, and meeting with friends are direct solutions. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that team members' must be motivated to talk and progress as a team, rather than seeking individual success.

Take the initiative and break the ice between you and others who may be just shy or proud to break it with you. And never forget, don't give others the chance to attack you in a direct or indirect way: be firm, while holding your temper.

Good luck at the office!

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