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How to deal with tricky people in the workplace

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius)

Yes Confucius, but you can’t always choose the people you work with!

The creative industries have their fair share of tricky people. Even the most exciting workplaces are filled with dynamics and office politics that need to be navigated on a daily basis. Some work environments are like a real-life recurring season of Survivor – the environment is hostile, alliances constantly shape-shift, gossip and backstabbing rules and, when it all goes pear-shaped, people can get voted off the island!

A carefree, egalitarian creative working environment is rare because where there are people, there is baggage and personalities and opinions and years of deeply entrenched work and personal habits that can drive us quietly nuts.

Think about some of the tricky traits of people you work with. It could be your boss, a client or a colleague.

It could be someone who doesn’t allow you to voice an opinion. Or someone who is wildly competitive or the person who takes credit for everyone else’s work.

There’s the office pessimist or the after hours’ exhibitionist. Or the person who never chips in for the office group lunch but chows down regardless. There’s the dictator and the procrastinator. The ditherer. The non-stop, loud or close talker who never lets anyone get a word in. The silent, unapproachable scary boss or the colleague who asks for your input but always ignores it. Or the office stress monster whose personal reactions to stress wreaks havoc on everyone around them. Or how about the control freak (aka micromanager). Or just someone with some highly dubious personal habits.

If harmonious relationships in the workplace are important to you, then it’s worth figuring out how to make things better.



It might be your smarts that have landed you a job but it’s often your EQ that keeps you there – and keeps you sane.


Cultivating your emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) can help you understand what is going on with the people around you and how you can better work with them. EQ can, in the simplest terms, be practised by flexing your good old fashioned people skills. It might be your smarts that have landed you a job but it’s often your EQ that keeps you there and keeps you sane. Self-awareness is the foundation of EQ.

Daniel Goleman, author of 1995’s book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ’ wrote that self-awareness is the ability to recognise your emotions and know your strengths and limits.

According to Goleman, EQ consists of the following four basic competencies:

  • Self-awareness (knowing how your emotional reactions affect others, being clear on your inner resources, strengths and limitations, your values self-worth)
  • Self-management (keeping emotional impulses in check, being adaptable and consistent)
  • Empathy and social awareness (sensing what others need and taking an active interest in their needs)
  • Relationship management (negotiating, supporting, working as a team and finding a way to resolve issues)

Self-awareness can help you work out what really matters to you. Is what is going on truly toxic or just annoying? It can help you sort out what you can live with and what you’d like to improve. Basically, it can help you choose your battles. It can also help you decide if it’s time to move on.

What can you do to foster EQ? Use your awareness to practice really listening. If you’re experiencing some tricky times with people you work with, try and put yourself in the person’s shoes and see how they view the workplace. Are they a micromanager because they can’t bear to lose control and what lies beneath that? What is the message behind the message? Try and figure out their ‘why’.

Reframe: Try and think of your differences with colleagues as a positive. What do they offer that’s unique or a counter balance to you? Focus on positive communication and honesty, empathy and compassion.

Remember to escalate things to a higher authority if there’s a serious issue especially one that relates to bullying, harassment and any form of aggression. It’s not on and should never be tolerated in the workplace.


Reproduced with permission from Next Act Coaching.

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Viv Fantin

Viv Fantin is an accredited personal coach who works with people who want to identify, set, and achieve realistic goals. She has seen all kinds of crazy as a music and festival publicist. Now in her second act, she is passionate about stress management and is on the never-ending quest to find the perfect work–life balance. She loves chai tea, music, reading and sitting in a dark cinema on a hot day. For more info visit

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.