We’ve all encountered difficult or toxic people throughout our professional lives. Whether it’s the difficult contractor you have to work with on a software project, the short-tempered client you have to meet with every day, or the arrogant recruiter standing between you and an IT contract. Difficult people suck… but have you considered that you might be that person in someone else’s story?
Eagle’s has no shortage of stories where extremely skilled IT professionals, while talented, have been difficult to work with or have caused extra trouble for the client. Although these contractors did exceptional work, we received feedback that the person had trouble getting along with others or caused too much conflict within the team. In other cases, the client was thrilled but the recruiter spent hours fielding complaints about previously agreed-upon rates and contract terms.
We all have our bad days, and certainly you need to stand up for yourself and engage in some debate throughout your career. But there are a few signs to watch for that might signify people see you as a chronically difficult person:
- You make few, if any, personal connections at work and only speak with colleagues about work-related items
- Every time there’s conflict, you tend to blame others without considering if you might be part of the problem
- You find yourself complaining to your manager more often than saying anything positive
- You’re often engaged in debate and fighting to be right
- You aren’t happy with the project and disengaged from the team, relaying a perception that you’re being difficult
If you’re reading this and immediately dismissing all five items, believing that is never you, you’re either really awesome or you’d probably better keep reading. We all have some difficultness within us and there is always room to improve. Here are a few tips for solving the problem:
- Improve Your Self-Awareness: Ask yourself difficult questions, as well as gather feedback from others to learn more about your behaviour and how you can improve.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Perfectionism and attention to detail are traits that can help you stand out as a quality contractor, but they can also hinder you. Pick your battles and decide what’s actually worth nitpicking.
- Find the Things That Make You Happy: In case you’re falling into the trap of being too negative, force yourself to see the positive actions your colleagues are taking and the great results that are happening on your project.
- Watch Your Body Language: It might not be the things you say, but that way you look in-person or on video calls. Look interested and smile, showing that you do care about what others are saying and that you are considering their opinions.
- Work on How You Criticize: Delivering criticism is a natural part of working on a team or being a in a leadership position. The way you deliver it can make the difference between being perceived as a difficult complainer or a person who gives constructive feedback. Don’t forget to include some praise!
- Find a New Job: We’re not advocating breaking a contract, but if you’re not happy in your current gig, you won’t be able to hide those feelings for long. That will reflect negatively in your behaviour and harm your reputation for future jobs. Discuss issues with your recruiter to see if you can find a solution together. At the very least, don’t accept a contract extension.
Being a difficult person is a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape. Others start to dislike you and treat you coldly, causing you to get more negative. The good news is, it’s never too late to improve yourself! If these points have raised a few flags, we strongly encourage you to look into this deeper and see where you can improve. Fixing issues now will prevent you from closing doors later.