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This chapter is from the book

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence

Despite the importance of learning how to deal with difficult people, there is relatively little formal education available on how to deal with office politics and personalities. Rather, you often learn as apprentices do—by observing those above you. Those above you, however, have also never had formal education. Moreover, many of those above you are difficult people from whom you should only learn what not to do.

For many people, simply reading this book and applying its recommendations will foster significant improvement in troubling work relationships. For others, the book will be a prelude to engaging an executive coach. Having read the book should help the coaching experience to move much farther and faster than would otherwise have occurred. You will get the most out of the book if you stop and think about people you have known who fit into the various categories discussed, what problems they caused, what it was like for you to deal with them, and how they reacted to different interventions. Questions at the end of each chapter are designed to facilitate this exercise.

It is puzzling that we seek expert advice on improving our golf game but avoid professional advice on how to deal with other people. We pay for fashion consultants, someone to help with presentation skills, and interior decorators. We pay personal trainers remarkable fees one or more times a week to encourage us to exercise harder. We avoid, however, engaging an expert to help us learn more about ourselves and others—someone who could help us learn to deal with different types of stressful people. Somehow, we are supposed to be experts on dealing with other people and with our own emotions even though these issues were never formally addressed in our education and training.

People can make changes themselves and can effect change in others. You are unlikely to bring about wholesale personality change, but you do not need to. Rounding off rough spots and bringing greater flexibility and responsiveness to situations that most seriously affect your colleagues is all that is needed to make a significant improvement in the quality of the work environment and work output. This is very doable if handled with skill and understanding of what is needed for change.

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