Top of the Strops

05 Sep 2013
POSTED BY Y Magazine

They’re one of six types and they can stress you out in seconds. Penny Fray finds out how to cope with work’s toxic tribes

We all know at least one. You know, the type whose very presence can send your blood pressure soaring without even trying.
It may be a colleague that constantly complains, the passive aggressor who seethes in silence instead of speaking to you or just the jovial contact who always agrees to meet but pulls out at the last second – usually when you’ve just navigated Muscat’s traffic to get to them.
It doesn’t take a psychologist’s chair to figure out that dealing with difficult people is one of the most common sources of workplace stress and yet, unlike social situations, you can’t avoid them. In fact, having different types in a team can improve performance, so it’s important to find coping mechanisms.
It’s always easier to offer someone compassion if you try to understand where they’re coming from, says Muscat-based life coach Jenni Eden. But that can’t completely justify poor behaviour. If you show negative people you support their choice to behave badly, you give them no real incentive to change.
Although people are different, more often than not rotten behaviour is formed during childhood. So, if you get what you want by being aggressive or manipulative, then that becomes a learned response.
To deal with the situation on both sides it’s important to step back, look at your response and deal with it objectively rather than emotionally. Here’s a guide to help you on your way:

These types use silence as a way to control the situation, refusing to engage in honest dialogue. It may not seem it but their lack of co-operation is a form of aggression.
Deal with them by: Maintaining eye contact and asking open-ended questions so that they can’t just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Confrontational, critical and bordering on bullying, these types get their way by being out and out aggressive.
Deal with them by: Refusing to be intimidated. Stay calm and ask them to restrict their criticism to specifics. If they continue to be hostile, then suggest talking to them again when they’ve calmed down.
They’re incapable of making a decision, which is highly frustrating if you are dependent on their input to progress with your own work.
Deal with them by: Arming them with deadlines, information and even your view on the matter, gently prompting them to make a call sooner rather than later.
Instead of proactively finding solutions to problems, they whine and persistently ignore positive suggestions.
Deal with them by: Refusing to get drawn into their cycle of complaining. Ask them to email you the specifics and respond to the problem.
They may be super-agreeable and willing – the only trouble is that they rarely deliver.
Deal with them by: Encourage them to consider what they can commit to before giving them a deadline and asking for updates.

What the Experts Say
“Put yourself in a transparent bubble where people can see you but can’t touch you. It’s all about feeling protected by an invisible shield.”
Jenni Eden, a Muscat-based life coach at

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