We have all worked with at least one person in our career that drove us absolutely insane. You know the type, one email from them can force you to want to pull your hair out or let out a scream of frustration. If they are in a leadership role, they may change their story every other day. Or a colleague who actually does nothing but is great at sucking up to the boss and taking credit for work they never did. Here is the scary part, these people are everywhere. No matter what firm you go to, they are going to be there. You can choose to quit, or you can find a way to work with them.
This person may be infuriating, but you can’t lose your temper. We have all worked with a colleague who will say they want blue one day, and the following day claim it was always yellow. You have to remember to remain calm. It’s easy to let your frustration boil over, and to be honest that may be what this person wants. But you have to remain professional.
Instead, try to display some empathy and understand why they may be acting the way they are. I would really like to believe that people are not intentionally difficult, there mut be a reason why they are behaving in the way they are. Try to have sympathy for them and understand why they are being so difficult. You would not like it is someone was disrespectful to you, so try to treat them with respect, even though it may not be easy.
Speak to people in your organization about how they interact with the individual in question. It’s likely, others have had similar challenges with this individual. You may even find out that they don’t have these challenges. Different people have different perspectives and different working styles. Maybe someone else, with a different approach, is getting along great with this person. You can adapt you approach based on this feedback.
It may also help to have a very open conversation with the person in question. You should try and explain what your intentions are. For example, if you are trying to change a process, you may not be trying to be difficult yourself, but are trying to help free up some time, by finding a more efficient way. Just as you should have empathy and understanding for them, this will help them to have insights into you and your motivations.
Escalate where necessary
Finally, it’s likely that at some point you are going to end up in “trouble” as a result of your interactions with this person, especially if they are political. It’s likely you end up accountable for something that you didn’t agree to. I think at some point we have all been thrown under the bus with no idea what we were meant to have done. You have two ways you can respond to this. You can either ignore it, but it likely doesn’t resolve anything. The better option is to escalate the issues up the chain of command. However, you need to remand to stay calm, unemotional and factual when doing this. If the employee is truly difficult and in the wrong, they always get found out in the end.