People, Passion and Profit

Five behaviors that make you a difficult person

We have all thought to ourselves and even discussed with coworkers at lunch, “I really can’t take working with John”, or “If Jane does that again I will scream”. What are those behaviors that make people really tough to work with and be around? Here are my top five.

Love to gossip

It only takes being talked about to develop a real aversion to gossip. We have a saying in The Bahamas: Dog bring bone carry bone. In other words, the person that comes to you with juicy information is more than likely carrying back some information and then some. What’s worse is when they take it back with your name on it embellished with some things you probably didn’t say. For people that love to gossip, it creates division and conflict, making environments tense and difficult to navigate. People have to be careful about what is discussed in their presence and what version they will repeat. A great rule to live by is if you can’t say it to them, you shouldn’t say it about them, especially if they are not present.

Negative outlook

People with a negative outlook are energy vampires. They drain all positivity and genuine effort, literally taking the life out of an atmosphere. There is nothing good that can happen in their world. Absolutely nothing. If the sun is out, it’s too hot. If it rains, it’s too wet. If they get a raise it’s not enough. If they get an award, it took too long to happen and now it’s meaningless. What tends to happen is people will avoid that negativity, excluding them from projects, committees, meetings, and opportunities. There is nothing wrong with pointing out things that may not be right, but be solution-oriented and change-focused. Talk about the benefits of the change rather than only the need for the change. As I always say, it can’t rain every day.

Resistant to change

We’ve all heard the adage, ‘the only constant in life is change’ and that’s the truth. Everything changes at one point or another. Life is about beginnings and endings, ups and downs, hills and valleys. That’s just life. No doubt, handling change, especially rapid change, is challenging, even scary. Our response to change doesn’t stop it, though. We have to find ways to view, react to, and manage the changes that happen to us. Examine the change and why you are resisting so you can implement ways to either accept it or embrace it. People that resist change get left behind. It’s as simple as that. Maybe not maliciously but definitely out of necessity. The Serenity Prayer is a great model to assimilate: Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Unwilling to learn

Coupled with change is often the requirement to learn something new. A person that is not willing to learn something new or thinks they can’t learn something because they already know can be very difficult to work with. It doesn’t matter how much you know, there is always something to learn. There are new perspectives to appreciate. There is nothing wrong with being open to grow and expand your knowledge and experience with new information and skills. Someone that doesn’t want to do that not only shortchanges themselves but hinders the progress of the team and advancement of organizational goals. There is a lot more at stake than just how you feel about learning. You might be afraid or feel awkward but that will pass as you master the new thing.

Everything is a joke

The class clown can make everyone laugh, sometimes at the expense of someone else, but is a funny person nonetheless. The ability to tell a good joke or make light of a situation is actually a pretty good skill when used appropriately. The thing is: not every situation calls for a good joke. Some scenarios can be quite serious in nature or the impact is intense for others and making light of it can diminish that for someone else. I’ve found that people make light of things to deflect their inability to process intense emotions. They would prefer to laugh it off than face it. I’ve seen it happen at the movies. I’ve heard people laugh during scenes of emotional intensity; that weird, ‘I feel uncomfortable’ laugh. Emotional intelligence comes with our ability to understand, process and manage the self as well as being sensitive to the state of others. Be sure you have taken all of that into account before you crack the next joke.

Introspection is an important exercise as we mature and journey through life. Take time to reflect on your behavior to make sure you’re not being difficult. If you work (or live with) some difficult people, it is helpful to understand, empathize, and address not only their behaviors but also your own. No matter how justified, you would not want your reaction to someone’s bad behavior to brand you as difficult either.

• Simmone L. Bowe, MSc, SPHRi, is a seasoned human resource and organization development consultant & trainer, speaker, author, personal development coach, mentor, and activist whose boutique training, coaching, speaking, and consulting firm Limitless Life, focuses on helping business owners, leaders and professionals ‘live limitless’ by identifying purpose & vision, aligning to purpose through authenticity, and breaking free of limiting mindsets and practices. For comments, queries, strategic solutions, and bookings, email

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