Oooooooooh…life’s drama can be a distraction of epic proportions to those of us who want to get ahead in life. Most of us have come across a person full of drama in either the workplace, a dating relationship, or a family member. This type of drama can be manifested in many ways, but the end result is often the same in that we can waste hours trying to figure things out or understand why something happened a certain way.
In my experience, those people who cause drama can do it for a number of reasons and sometimes it is due to a behavior cause that can be associated to being bipolar, narcissistic, selfish, borderline personality disorder, or many other forms of personality disorders. This website, and this article aren’t really concerned with the different types, but more so how to deal with those types of individuals when you come into contact with them. However, if you want to learn more about how these types of personality disorders and how they can affect your professional life, click here.
Instead of the diagnoses, we can focus on how to steer clear of these individuals and do it in a professional and “non-sticky” way. What the heck is “non-sticky” you may ask? Well it is kinda like getting stuck into a cobweb of sorts. Many of these personality challenged individuals will try to get us to get wrapped up in their cobweb, and stuck to the issue that they are confronting us with. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say that you are working on a project with a person who is both toxic and may have a personality disorder such as narcissism. As a quick refresher, a narcissist is a person who is self absorbed among many other bad traits. Well this self absorbed person may try to put you in your place and make you feel that they’ve done all the important work, and you are just a tag along to all the great accomplishments that they’ve added. They will of course want to take all of the credit and along the way, make you feel like a detractor from the project. They may also go ahead and let other associates or coworkers know that they had to carry you through the project and that you were lucky to get matched up with them so that they could save you from a certain firing for lack of competency. We’ll don’t dismiss this story, because I dealt with a coworker who was very similar to what I’ve described.
Well how should we handle it:
- Strike first – Don’t wait to make your case. If you find that you are having challenges with an individual don’t try to tough it out for an extended period of time. Make sure that you let your boss know early on that the working relationship with the toxic person has some slight challenges. You have to be strategic early on, because you don’t want to come off as a complainer but you want to very subtly let your boss know that something is amiss with this relationship. BUT, is is essential that your first comment to your boss is very subtle, and it is more of a pointer that you can refer back to as a placemarker for notifying them early on that this is potential bad seed you have been matched up with.
- Document and keep your work papers separate when possible. You may be hung out to dry, and used a scape goat by these types of individuals. Now, in my experience, they can be very trick in their self absorbed and selfish ways. So, assuming that your work is good and professional and better than the work your partner may be completing, it’s expected that they may try to take credit for this work. So, I suggest that you clear document what you are working on separately, and that you keep this information backed up on your personal computer.
- Know where you stand in the chain of command. If you are peers with the toxic person, then you want to very politely stand your ground as they will surely try to demean and take control of you and the project. You will need to once again be strategic and understanding that this person may only have selfish aspirations and they will want all of the credit for their self.
- Let your boss know that you find this relationship challenging in advance. Along the same point as early. Don’t want until the relationship is totally soured and ruined before you inform your bosses or business associates. This is because you may just be the second person who is reporting a major problem. Even though your work product may be perfect, and it may be the only thing that is done correctly between you and toxic person, it may not be portrayed that you are adding any value.
- Damage control – If the wheels come off the bus, and you find that you need to completely defend yourself in the aftermath of a toxic business relationship rely on the steps above. You’ll be able to go back to your boss and say “remember when I told you”, or “here are my work papers”. These reference points that you set early on should help to give you the support that you need to make it through this situation.