Dealing with difficult people

More than meets the eye

It’s safe to say that everyone won’t get along all the time. So what do you do when you come across a prickly character or worse a grumpy AF staffer who seems to be made of pure bile?

Safety First

No one should ever feel abused in any way, shape or form. If you feel there is a safety issue it is best to err on the side of caution and report it to HR or a higher authority. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect no matter if their opinions differ. Sadly, too many assistants are too afraid to say something if they feel threatened. If you ever need support please DM Lauren in Slack. The conversation will be completely confidential, we just want you to be safe and to feel supported.

Everyone has a story

Remember that everyone has a story we know nothing about. If someone is being ornery for seemingly no reason why not stop and ask them how they are doing. Acknowledge that you understand they have a frustration and that you want to get to the bottom of it.

Challenge Them

There is a way to do this without being a monster. If someone is complaining or frustrated then ask them what they have done to find a solution. You can push and ask them to create a case study and you’ll bring it to leadership. Either they will rise to the occasion or at least they will have piped down for a bit.


People want to be heard and have their thoughts validated. Sometimes just actively listening without judgement or even without offering advice (unless solicited) can heal wounds.

Small act of kindness

A small act of kindness can help break down barriers when anger and frustration arise, especially if there has been a slight break from the incident. Offer to buy them a coffee or ask if they would like to go for a walk to your favorite spot and talk it out.

Take a Break

Suggest a break when things get too heated. There is a point at which someone can get so upset that they lose control and say things they don’t even mean. Recognizing that an argument is getting to that stage or is at that stage is crucial. Typically the best thing to do is get everyone separated and alone with their thoughts. Allow them to take a significant break. Time is a great healer of wounds.

Focus Your Energy

Some people are just plain jerks. You cannot fix everyone’s problems though sometimes we get obsessed with trying. You may not know their trauma or how they developed their strong opinions but after you have made your attempts at resolution there may come a point where you should decided to strategically walk away. You may decide to let it lie or take it to management but don’t give it anymore energy than it deserves.

Go zen + don’t take it personally

You cannot be a doormat without first laying down. As stated earlier in the coursebook we can sometimes give away our power and influence. Start by not giving the person that power over you. Try to get to a state where you are almost watching it from above, as if it was happening to someone else. Try to take the personal side of it out and look at it as a problem to solve.

Remember their words say more about them than they say about you.

Stay solution focused

Don’t get wrapped up in the argument. Remember to stay solution focused. Remember that solutions have many forms. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to agree.

If you disagree with a colleague, contrary to popular belief, the issue is never the other person. The problem is the issue you are both trying to solve from different perspectives, baggage and experience.

Stay empathetic while working towards a solution. The person on the other side is still a human. If they are just annoying or obstinate, try to find out the bigger picture. This passion from them is stemming from a history. Find out what it is.