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Dealing With Challenging Workmates

We spend a large amount of time at work and therefore the more enjoyable, the better it is for everyone, employees and employers. Productivity goes up if people are happy, motivated and engaged. Where there is conflict or tension in the workplace because someone is being 'difficult' or 'challenging' this can have an adverse effect on productivity and motivation and at its worst can lead to some very challenging and time consuming grievances, disciplinary cases or even people choosing to leave. However whilst outright bad behaviour should be dealt with by managers through the Performance Management or Disciplinary system, there are ways that we can all build better relationships with our workmates. One of the main reasons for one person having a problem with another is sometimes explained as a 'personality clash'. However personality clashes are in many ways about people not being tolerant or understanding of the fact that we all see the world in very different ways. We tend to think of diversity as different cultures or languages however we are all diverse, we have all had different upbringings, different lives and see the world differently. We tend to polarise the world and situations and believe sometimes when someone does not see a situation or behave in a way that we believe they should be, they are being challenging! When in reality it is they just don't see it that way, not because they are trying to upset or get at you, but because that's just their automatic view of the situation or that's how they believe they need to act to get what they want from the situation.

In situations where you just don't understand someone's actions or response, the most effective way to deal with it is to just ask! Ask in a controlled friendly way why they have said what they have said or done what they have done. Not a judgemental or disapproving way but from a place of genuine curiosity. This is non threatening to the other person and also gives them the message that you are interested in them and their point of view, this in itself makes most of us feel good, we all want to be appreciated. Generally sensible people don't cause problems for absolutely no reason; they behave in a way that they believe will get them what they need. If it is to be cheeky, sulky or disruptive, that could be because its worked in the past for them. It's a learned behaviour and sometimes just giving the message that if you behave in a reasonable fashion, that will get you what you want also. This can be done by leading by example or having a friendly conversation. If the culture of the workplace allows challenging behaviour then that's how people will behave, managers should be aware that they set the culture through their behaviour and should not underestimate the shadow they cast over the organisation in terms of acceptable behaviours.

Sometimes when we believe someone is being challenging it's because there is an underlying issue, either in the workplace or even at home. Whilst it is right that we leave our baggage at the door when we come to work, the reality of who we are comes from every part of our life and that is what happens in work and out of work, . Therefore trying to befriend and get to the root cause of someone's behaviour can sometimes help us be more tolerant of the individual and help us not get so upset at what we perceive is challenging behaviour. But we should also remember that we can't change people they have to change themselves, what we can change, and choose, is our response to them. We can choose not to rise to the bait, not to get upset and as a result this in itself may change the behaviour of the other person as they are not getting the response they expected, and may opt to try a different, more acceptable behaviour.

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