Dealing with difficult people

In a recent coaching conversation, the coachee brought up a topic that they are struggling with and wanted to work on. With their permission, I’ve been able to share this knowledge with you today. Please note that names, and certain examples have been altered for privacy.


They have been working with their new colleague “Greg” for the last few months. Greg is one of those people who has a story that can outdo anyone. You’ve been on holiday to France? He sailed around the Mediterranean on a boat. You’re working as a Project Manager? He’s done every job in the organisation and been promoted several times. Whilst the stories are annoying, it’s normally fine. But recently Greg has been sabotaging this colleague repeatedly by lying, not submitting the work on time to clients and throwing the coachee under the bus on every occasion to try and ‘get ahead’. It came to a head yesterday when the coachee returned from a few days sick leave to a severe project escalation as a direct result of the actions of Greg. They wanted to ask what they could do to try and manage their relationship with Greg as they will continue to need to work with Greg for the longer term.

Solutions/ Ideas

When we discussed potential options for what the coachee could do, they come up with the following:

  • “Cover your ass”. Follow up every communication or interaction with an email summarising what was discussed and any open action
  • Manage the relationship/ interactions: One of the major issues that the coachee had was related to the lack of written evidence of his poor behaviour. He would only want to call to discuss and refused to put anything in emails. By managing the interactions/relationship, they are able to control their reaction and behaviour towards this person and limit the potential damage
  • Keep your Boss/Management in the loop: Greg appears to escalate every single issue to my coachee’s manager and this has caused a lot of conflict. In retrospect, the coachee, tried to handle this “colleague to colleague” without needing to involve management but this hasn’t worked. From now on, she’ll be informing her boss of the situation, any potential issues that may be coming up and active management of Greg and their projects.
  • Manage Greg: You need to learn how to manage the individual. What are their motivations towards to their behaviour? Do they want your job? Is there an ulterior motive? Is there any way to get Greg on side?
    • One thing that I suggested was actively and pointedly asking him for his experience in front of others and not letting themselves get involved in politics/ gossip.
    • Be direct to him: Address the issues that you have with Greg directly. This could mean: if he interrupts you, you say: Oh, Greg, I was talking. Could you please not interrupt and let me finish? You may also need to manage or stop conversation / gossip as it occurs. If Greg starts talking about others, you could say: Oh, Greg, Can I stop you there? I don’t want to hear this”.
  • Take a Break: It can be really difficult but at the end of the day, it is just a job. Try to not take this to heart, make sure that you have some coping mechanisms in place to manage your stress levels.

What’s important to know?

Having someone actively sabotaging your work and career can be really demoralising and difficult to handle. They are mentally demoralising and a drain on your precious energy. It’s important to realise that you cannot change someone else’s behaviour, only your reaction to it. If someone is trying to show you as incompetent, it’s your role to show that you’re not. You can do this by continuing to be the best person that you can be. You document your work, everything that has been delivered and, if necessary, document interactions to show what you have done, discussed and achieved.

How would you react to Greg? What would you do differently?

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