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  • Sylvie Haber, CFE

How to deal with "Abby"

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

by Sylvie Haber

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and you have a warm feeling in your heart. You sit down at your desk, ready to start your tasks when all of a sudden Abby walks in. Your heart sinks and your palms get sweaty. As Abby makes her way into the office, you can see the look of dread making its way through the staff. Gone is the sunshine and warmth, now it is doom and gloom that Abby has brought with her.

As soon as Abby sits down at her desk, she starts to shuffle through her papers, complaining about the computer and the work she has to do. You cross your fingers, hoping that she doesn’t call out your name and start to complain to you about all the work that needs to be done because no one can do anything correctly but her. As you observe your staff, you can see them peering at her and whispering to each other, with the occasional eye roll. One realizes that Abby is the difficult person at work.

Dealing with a difficult person is not on everyone’s wish list. If you could avoid the person altogether, that would be the ideal situation. But sometimes, you cannot avoid this and you have to learn the skills to deal with a difficult person, like Abby.

Having someone like Abby in your workplace has more of an affect that you may think. It can cause staff members to have resentment towards that person, disrupt the daily functions of a smooth running office, and can affect your patients, eventually turning your office into a hostile work environment. It is important to not only make sure that your staff is comfortable coming into work and giving their best while working but also ensuring a desirable and safe environment for your patients.

As with any relationship, communication is key. When Abby is calling your name and is complaining to you that she knows what is best for the office instead of being dismissive and letting her do what she wants as to avoid conflict, you should take a deep breathe and speak to her in a calm and respectful demeanor. By speaking to her in a calm and respectful manner, you are showing that you have control of the situation, while respecting her, and in turn showing that kindness is the key to penetrating the façade and you want to help the situation get better.

Along with communication, active listening will ease your conversation with the difficult person because you have created a rapport with them. If you actively listen, you will be surprised to find that you may find common ground, which will allow you to have a constructive conversation. For example, with Abby, she could be having a hard time coping with change in the office or may have a sick relative at home that is weighing heavy on her. Sometimes a person is being difficult because they are crying out for help and want to be heard, which in turn, opens up the door for resolution.

Let’s say Abby retains a sense of seniority in the office because she has been there the longest. This can make it hard for her to accept any changes in the office because the office has run a certain way for so long, which may be a reason as to why she may shoot down ideas that would progress the office or make certain tasks easier for staff. When it comes to this scenario, it is important to make her feel apart of the team. That way if there are changes in the office, you can talk to her and explain that she should give whatever is being implemented a chance before writing it off.

What if the feeling of stress or anxiety still has not gone away within the office? This may be the point where you need to have an honest conversation with her. When speaking with Abby, make sure you use phases such as, “It makes me feel this way, when you do…”, can show to the person how their actions can directly affect someone else and in total the office dynamics. It is also important to not single her out, use “we” instead of “you” when discussing different ways to improve the relationship and work environment. That way you both know the expectations you have set for each other. When Abby knows where you are coming from, it can be an integral step in salvaging the relationship and building upon a new work relationship.

Although it is a difficult thing to do, dealing with a difficult person in the workplace, like Abby, can help alleviate a lot of stress and in turn create a better work environment. When you have a better work environment between staff they start to feel that they matter in the office and that would, in turn, have them provide better and more optimal care to your patients.

Sylvie can be reached at:

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