Dealing with people, especially difficult people at work is draining. You don’t feel even like going into work. Today, you’ll get some tips for dealing with people, especially difficult people at work.

What if the difficult person at work is your boss? That ratchets up the intensity level, doesn’t it? I’ve had experience with this kind of person in my past. My boss fired me after only three years on the job. In hindsight, I consider myself as one of the lucky ones at that business. The people that survived him were said to have post traumatic stress disorder after he left. They were under constant pressure to produce or be fired. They had many examples of people that did get fired (like myself), so the threats were not without some merit.

In the bible, there is a great example of dealing with people at work, especially a difficult manager who has an unreasonable demand. The lesson that we can learn from comes out of the book of Daniel.

Here is the situation that happened in the workplace between the employees and the boss:

The boss (the king of the country), had a dream. The issue was that he couldn’t remember what the dream was. You probably remember having those kinds of dreams in your sleep. You wake up remembering how vivid they were, but you can’t remember the substance of the dream once you awake. This one obviously shocked the king, because he was very troubled by it.

The king summons his advisers, and DEMANDS that they tell him what he dreamt. That is a pretty unreasonable request of any manager, even if it happened today with all our technology to scan the brain with MRI’s. We still can’t tell people what dream they had at night.

What Do You Think Is Going To Happen?

What I want you to do now, is to think about what you would do in this situation and compare it to what happened. I know you’re pretty smart, and if you think about it, this is a very predictable situation. You can almost guess in advance what is going to happen in the story; because it still happens every day.

The first reactions of the employees was to huddle together with one another and come out groveling to their supervisor.

How many times have you seen that work in any job that you’ve ever had? Right. Never.

The supervisor (king) is a bit agitated by this. To him, his request doesn’t seem unreasonable. He is paying their salary after all, and these employees are his astrologers and advisors. You can just imagine what he’s thinking to himself: “I’ve been keeping these people on retainer all this time, and now when I need them the most, they have no response to my request. They must think I’m joking.”

So he comes back and replies to the effect: “Look, I’m a reasonable guy; if you solve this hard problem, I’m going to promote you and lavish you with a big bonus. However, it you don’t solve this problem, I’m not only going to fire you — I’m going to fire you literally, by having a barbeque with your body parts. And after that, I’m going to wipe any memory of you from the face of the earth. It would have been better if you were never born.”

Maybe it is still pre-dawn when they were called in, because the employees must think he’s still joking. Now they get a little bit more bold, and look at what they say to the boss:

The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.” Daniel 2: 10-11 (NIV)

Do you sense the belligerence among the employees? In modern vernacular, what they said amounted to: “What you’re asking for is completely unreasonable. No other boss, even great ones like Donald Trump, have ever asked his employees to accomplish such a task. It’s too hard. And besides, only a super-being could accomplish this, and you’re no super-being yourself.”

Now do you see the belligerence?

Kings, bosses, and upper managers — all of them; do consider themselves to be super-beings. Isn’t that right? You know it’s true, especially if you’ve worked your tail off to become a leader in your company. You’ve done a lot of seemingly impossible tasks to get where you are today as a leader in your business.

So when they threw that fist-full of sand at the king’s face, how do you think he’d react?

Right. He went ballistic. He put out the word to fire the entire staff. And he was so infuriated at their conduct, that he did put out the word to fire up the barbeque pit.

By the way, did I tell you I got fired by a guy that got angry like this? Basically, it played out the same way. In retrospect, it is humbling and something that I ashamed to have to say that happened to me. In other words, the moral of this story is to don’t be like me.

Tomorrow we’ll dig some more into this story, and find out how one man, Daniel, dealt with this difficult person at work.

In the mean time, what have we learned about this situation and what things don’t succeed when dealing with people that are “difficult?”

What Doesn’t Work?

First, don’t grovel. It further emboldens the difficult person.

Second, don’t go looking for “safety in numbers.” The employees thought that if they could band together and stand as a unified force, that they would win over their difficult boss. Doesn’t work like that–never will.

This just pisses of the boss further. Basically, he looks at it as the group is challenging his authority. Did you ever hear the phrase “don’t let the inmates run the asylum?” That is what the boss is thinking.

Subordinate employees think that the boss is only out to protect his own job. This may not be the case. What you are thinking as an employee, and what he is thinking as a supervisor, are two different things.

He probably feels that he has a responsibility to run his company as efficiently as possible so that “everyone” under him will be protected. That is a bigger responsibility than just protecting just one individual’s job. It is like a commander in the army that is willing to sacrifice the life of one soldier to protect the lives of a whole battalion. The boss sees the big picture, while the employees only see one little corner.

Third, don’t ever insult the supervisor by saying he’s not god. He already knows he’s not god. Pointing it out to him doesn’t change the situation at all. As it did in this bible story, it is only going to ratchet up the intensity of the confrontation.

Dealing with Difficult Clients

While this article is talking about dealing with difficult people at work, the same principles apply to dealing with difficult customers. Did you ever have a client come say to you: “I’ve got this big problem, and since I paid you money for the product/service, it is up to you to solve it!”? I have.

I even knew they screwed up, and what they are asking for is unreasonable. The same rules apply when dealing with customers, because after all, they are the “boss.” It is something you have to remember when you are running a business, or if you are an employee dealing with a customer.

Until tomorrow… “Be Fruitful.” It is how to make money, God’s way.
Photo Credit

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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  • Jennifer Battaglino

    Great post as usual…And as in almost anything I can think of right now, easier said than done but if you can put things in perspective most of the time, then hopefully you’ll be forgiven during those hopefully rare occasions.

    Jen B
    The Harwood Group – Tinnitus, Chronic Illness, Fears, and Anxiety

  • Lisa McLellan

    I would probably just have to look for another job. I couldn’t work with someone like that for very long at all. To me, three years is a long time. You’re a brave soul!

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services, Nanny Services, and Nanny agencies

  • Christian Dating Expert

    Hi Tim,

    Thank you for providing tips on “Dealing with The Difficult whether is a boss or client and bringing in a Christian Biblical perspective.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Christian Dating Expert and Coach

  • Michael D Walker

    Interesting take on things.

    I hate cliff hangers, so I’m not thrilled with not hearing the whole story but I’m probably in the minority on that. :)

    The Success Secrets

  • Austin

    Good, vision-expanding points made. Thanks, I still have more to learn.