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Advice on Working with Annoying People: Consider That It Could Be You


Workers are bound to run into people they don’t like—at the office and everywhere else.

But if it happens too often, you should consider whether it’s you, according to Stanford University management professor Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule. The Harvard Business Review covered Sutton’s advice in an article noted by the Careerist.

Sutton says you should consider what it is about the hated person who sets you off. Is jealousy part of the reason you don’t like the nemesis? Is he or she different than you? Does he remind you of your father? By focusing on behaviors rather than traits you don’t like, you can assess whether it’s true dislike or stereotypes that bother you. “It’s reasonable to assume you’re part of the problem,” Sutton tells the Harvard Business Review. “If everywhere you go there’s someone you hate, it’s a bad sign.”

The story summarizes other advice from Sutton and Daniel Goleman, the co-director of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers University and author of The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. Other recommendations include:

• You can’t control the other person, but you can manage your reaction. Relaxation techniques can help manage your stress. When you can’t do anything about the other person, “practice the fine art of emotional detachment,” Sutton says.

• Don’t gripe about the person to everyone else. You could get labeled as the difficult one.

• Spend more time with the nemesis; maybe you will gain insights or develop empathy. You could offer constructive criticism, if the person seems open to it.

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