How do you Handle the Difficult Colleague?

Are you prepared for the “difficult colleague” job interview question? Expect the interviewer to ask for an instance when you dealt with a difficult person to get a handle on your interpersonal skills. Don’t just count on winging it unless you have prepared stories of past successes.

Do you have a great interview story of how you used your skills to handle a difficult person? Can you describe your approach? It is best to start your preparation for this question by developing a simple approach that you can apply consistently. That way your interview answer will be clear and easy to follow and will be more credible to the interviewer. After all, if you just improvised, how can the prospective employer believe that your lovely story conveys the way you might handle a similar situation in the future?

You Need a Strategy for Handling a Difficult Colleague

Spot the Difficult Colleague

Spot the Difficult Colleague

Common strategies usually begins with first informing  the other person that what they are doing is a problem for you. If that’s not successful, you may need to involve other. In exceptional cases, more formal actions may become necessary. In the case of an abusive co-worker, that’s prudent advice, but not an ideal story for a job interview!

You don’t want to imply that every awkward or frustrating interaction with a fellow employee ends up with a meeting with HR! Whatever story you tell will leave them with the impression that you handle all situations in that same manner. Choose that story carefully!

First, lets explore why someone seems “difficult” to you. 

You ARE Somebody’s Else’s Difficult Colleague!

If you are employed, there is at least one difficult person in your workplace, as sweet and accommodating as you may be. Someone else is frustrated by the way that you interact with them or others. If you need evidence of that, find out your personality type using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or some other method. Consider carefully the descriptions of your type. You’ll find that individuals with your type predictably frustrate others with different types. If you can, see what drives your boss around the bend.

In recent years I have learned more about  temperament and become certified with the MBTI and other assessment tools,. Looking back over my career, I found the tension with some individuals quite puzzling. It would have been helpful to understand that those were entirely predictable, given our temperaments, when I assumed at the time they were  personal.

3 More Reasons Someone Might Seem Difficult

1. You sabotage their work performance.

Learn how their performance is measured and how they are rewarded. Look at their job description if possible. If you are always late submitting expense reports, somebody’s performance evaluation is suffering. If they are cool to you, it’s not a mystery.

2. Difficulties in their personal lives.

Maybe they should leave challenges with children, spouses and aging parents at the door, but there are seasons when that is especially challenging. In any event, they aren’t evil and it’s not personal.

3. ADD or another difficulty makes them a difficult person to you.

I have met several adults who did not recognize that they had ADD until their child was diagnosed in school. Before their own diagnosis they were mystified by certain aspects of their own work habits as were others around them. Realize that there are employees all around us who work and interact with you in ways that you don’t understand for reasons that are unknown to you.

You May Never Be Certain Why She Seems Difficult

There are many other reasons, some of which have nothing to do with you. Many of them are, except for the impact on your working relationship, none of your business. But just resisting the temptation to see them as evil is a good place to start.

In my next post, Handling the Difficult Person Job Interview Question.

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One thought on “How do you Handle the Difficult Colleague?

  1. Pingback: Prepare for the “Difficult Person” Job Interview Question | Dan Armishaw

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