Have 5 Ways To Deal With Difficult People At Work


I came up with this particular post because at work recently, for some strange reason, I’ve had to deal with some very tricky customers. My ideas do mainly focus around customers at an eating establishment, however I’m sure my methods could be tweaked so that they apply to people you work with in an office environment, for example.

1. Try to stick to the classic saying “The customer is always right”, even if they so, totally are not right. In other words, even before you figure out how you’re going to deal with Mr and Mrs Stroppy Knickers, chant this mantra to yourself (in your mind ovbs.) while breathing innnnnnn through your nose! And ouutttttt through your mouth.

2. Now to act upon the mantra: Apologise profusely (and if serving somebody, offer a refund/exchange/freebie next time). Recently I served a gentleman who ate all of his beef and horseradish sandwich – bar a scrap of crust about 1cm x 1cm in size – and then called me over to complain about how he barely managed to eat the sandwich because the meat was so tough and gristly. At first I thought he was joking and burst out laughing. Embarrassing much? I did so, because his plate was virtually licked clean, but when I registered that his expression was not one of joy I quickly began to offer my sincere apologies for his sub-standard dining experience. You want to placate the person you’re dealing with, even if you truly believe they don’t deserve an apology.

3.  If someone is undeniably rude to you, then have the courage to stand up for yourself. I don’t mean, however tempting it may be, get in a slanging match with that person. That just lowers you to their level, so there’s no better time to remember your mother’s vital words of wisdom “Rise above it!”. What I mean, is if someone is unnecessarily and unacceptably rude to you then try (and I know it’s difficult to be brave when caught up in the moment) and muster the strength to say something like “I can see that you’re upset Madam but please don’t speak to me in that tone/manner because I find it very disrespectful”. A lot of the time, people will try their luck and be unspeakably vulgar (often towards younger people at my work, I have found) and coming back with a calm retort such as that will often stun and embarrass them somewhat. It may even reduce them to an apology if you’re lucky, because they’re not expecting it.

4. This leads me to…Keep smiling. It follows on nicely from Number 3, because remaining calm and smiling is your best form of defence. There’s nothing like smiling at a nutter (excuse the brash term, but I do often feel like I’m serving crazy people!) in the face when they’re slowly going bright red, steam is coming out of their ears and they’re panting like a mad Bloodhound. Anger met with anger is predictable – but a gleaming white smile, particularly if you have a nice set of gnashers, is rather disconcerting and will make you feeltotally in control. Trust me.

5. You’ve bottled up your tears at being shouted at/your anger towards someone insolent and now you can go home and wail/bitch to a friend/loved one all about it. That person will be a shoulder to cry on and will support you to the death, so it’s great to let all of your frustration out with them listening. It’s brilliant therapy and they’ll give you even more advice for the next time you’re faced with a difficult person, because let’s face it, there’s lots of ’em in the world.