It is essential for leaders--especially entrepreneurs--to know how to deal with difficult people in the workplace.

A dissatisfied customer, a gossiping employee, or a know-it-all competitor--disagreeable people are always around somewhere making our own lives tougher. Becoming frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed can hurt your business, leading to lost customers or strained relationships with employees.

Below are seven examples of difficult people everyone has encountered at one time or another. For each, there is a solution to successfully and painlessly contend with that person's behavior in a professional manner.

1. The deadweight

The deadweight is the person who doesn't carry a fair share of the workload, avoids difficult assignments, and rarely delivers on promises.

Solution: On the rare moment the deadweight does help you, be very generous with your praise. Talk with the deadweight and reinforce any positive traits that person may have, and encourage him or her to do more. Positive reinforcement can work wonders. It's a great motivator.

2. The rumor-spreader

The rumor-spreader gossips about others and loves to spread bad news. This can be very disruptive in the workplace.

Solution: Avoid this type of person as much as possible. At every opportunity, correct distorted and untrue gossip you may encounter. Discrediting the rumor-spreader will cause people to stop listening, and without an audience to entertain, the gossip will probably halt. If you must confront someone who is maliciously spreading rumors, expect denial. Have your evidence well documented, making it impossible for that person to duck responsibility.

3. The backstabber

The backstabber takes credit for your accomplishments, badmouths you to your superiors or other important people, and says one thing to your face and another behind your back.

Solution: Of all of the kinds of difficult people, this is the one you should not tolerate, avoid, or ignore. Before confronting the backstabber, gather all of your evidence. It is important to stay calm. Present only the facts, not hearsay, innuendos, or supposition. Don't attribute motive or intent. Describe the behavior that will not be tolerated, and without threats, enlighten the backstabber of the consequences if the behavior does not stop immediately.

4. The all-about-me person

This person cares far more about his or her own career than the good of the company, and will hog the limelight at every opportunity, stepping on toes if necessary.

Solution: Confront the all-about-me person. Be direct and let that person know you will not be intimidated. If that fails, you may have to bring in a third party to act as a mediator.

5. The know-it-all

The know-it-all has an inflated ego and offers unwanted advice and information to anyone who will listen. This person will be the first one to say "I told you so" in the event you make a mistake.

Solution: Tell the know-it-all that advice has more meaning when it has been requested and not volunteered. Or you can just smile, say thank you, and ignore that person and the advice.

6. The complainer

The complainer resists change, always expects the worst, and complains about everyone and everything.

Solution: This is another one to avoid when possible. Don't get caught up in this person's negativity. Counteract each negative remark with a positive one.

7. The firecracker

The firecracker flies off of the handle at the slightest provocation, is highly judgmental of others, and behaves in an unprofessional manner by shouting, name calling, and even using profanity.

Solution: Let the little firecracker blow off steam, and when this person cools down, respond calmly and slowly, but in an assertive way, to bring the firecracker down to your emotional level. Give this person specific feedback on explosive behavior and let him or her know that this will not be tolerated in the workplace. Video-taping the firecracker and later allowing a private viewing would be a real eye opener.

Did you recognize anyone? These 7 profiles are fairly common. They are hard to deal with and near impossible to work around. Just remember, any difficult person can be handled successfully with positive and direct communication. And then again, you could say goodbye to the difficult person on a note written on a pink slip.

Oh, I almost forgot: Document everything--and I mean everything.

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Published on: Sep 24, 2014
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