Have you ever noticed that it sometimes pays to be difficult to work with?
Have an overbooked schedule? Just skip the meetings you don’t want to go to without letting anyone know. If you’re perceived as someone whose input is needed, people will go out of their way to schedule things at a time convenient to you.
Have too much work bombarding you from all different directions? Tell everyone coming to you with even the simplest question to submit a request, even going so far as to request a separate request for each question they have. Those who need something done will come bearing gifts of food and beverage in the hopes of getting bumped to the top of the line.
Don’t have time to read all the documents that you get sent or to seek the information you need on Intranets or shared folders looking for a particular piece of information? When you want some information, launch a form of Spanish Inquisition and demand meetings to walk you through what you could have read beforehand.
If you regularly use those tactics, watch out you may in fact be one of the people whose difficult to work with. What’s more, those tactics may seem to work in the short term, but they often result in even more email, even more meetings, and often more escalations to your boss.
My guess is that most of you reading this are typically on the other side of these situations and are trying to figure out how to deal with those difficult to deal with people in a way that does not reward and encourage that bad behavior.
I’m still trying to figure out the best way to handle these situations long term because I admittedly revert to short term transactional solutions that get me the information I need to keep moving. To help with some longer-term solutions, I took a quick look around and came up with the following idea. I’d love to hear about your experiences as well.
How to deal with difficult people on software projects
When I found this resource I was immediately glad I decided to explore this particular topic this week. Neil Green pulled together this excellent catalog of problem personalities in software and provides some advice on how to deal with each one. It is an extremely rich resource and one I’ll be using as a reference for years to come.
Collaborating with Non Collaborators
Well, I guess I have some thoughts on how to deal with difficult people in some situations. Here’s an article Todd Little and I wrote on Project Connections about how to work with people you initially think are non-collaborators. “Collaboration is sometimes a bit tricky, especially when people are involved. But a diverse team that can collaborate well can harness the creative tension to generate innovative ideas and solutions.”
Conflict management recommendations for product managers
Andre Theus reminds us that the most valuable tool in your conflict management arsenal will be your ability to always remain calm. To help you stay calm, he provided this product manager’s 5-step blueprint for conflict management.
Marcus Aurelius on difficult people
The importance of staying calm when dealing with difficult people is an idea that’s been around for a long time. David deBoisblanc explains how understanding a Roman emperor’s views on conflict can be helpful even today.
And if you’ve ever thought that people are intentionally being difficult with you out of spite or maliciousness, Shane Parish suggests you keep Hanlon’s Razor in mind: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect.” (I’ve seen neglect replaced with incompetence and stupidity, but hopefully, you get the point).