Nasty piece of work?

If watching the recent antics of Bigg Boss 5 inmate Pooja Misrra's reminds you of a problematic colleague, here's expert advice on how to make the most of the situation at work

From calling Bigg Boss 5 housemate Amar Upadhyay 'selfish' to getting into kitchen fights with Shonali Nagrani, ex-VJ Pooja Misrra is not one to shy away from a fight. While her on-screen antics might make for good TRPs, what if one had to cope with a Pooja type in the workplace?

Model and VJ Pooja Misrra has been making life hell for fellow Bigg Boss
5 housemates.
Pic/ Mahesh Chafe

"A problematic colleague usually has a distorted view of the world. Their attitudes are extremely rigid, which leads to behaviour that is often hurtful or harmful to others," says Armaan Pandey, consultant psychiatrist, Surana Sethia Hospital.

Pandey adds that it is the repetitive harmful behaviour that builds a person's reputation as being problematic. Psychiatrist Rajiv Anand believes that troublesome colleagues are part and parcel of every organisation.

Diverse backgrounds can be a key factor for conflict. "Sometimes people carry personal problems to work and are unable to switch off. Thus, despite working for the same organisation to achieve the same goal, they cannot see eye-to-eye with others," says Anand.

Pandey says that a change in behaviour, sudden drop in performance, unusual involvement in fights, veering away from responsibilities and absenteeism are all signs of a difficult colleague. "You can know a person is turning problematic when certain behaviour patterns emerge," says wellness coach Ameeta Sanghavi Shah. She adds, "Behaviours are wrong if force is used to create fear, work is sabotaged or boundaries are crossed."

Power play for men
According to Shah, men and women exhibit different problematic traits, owing to societal and biological influences. Problematic behaviour in women may originate from the need to be accepted and treated with respect, while for men it is more about power play.

Shah believes that low self-esteem and past unresolved issues, current fears and insecurities, poor attitudes and a deficiency in social skills can contribute to people being identified as problematic. Stress is another reason for people to behave badly at work. "People are not aware that they need to learn stress management techniques to survive in the workplace," says Anand, adding, "Most people are overwhelmed by unresolved stress."

Toxic environment
Experts agree that having a troublesome colleague not only leads to chaos in the office, but also harms the physical and emotional well being of other colleagues. Individuals may feel helpless, frustrated and threatened in the presence of a problematic colleague.

How to cope
"Engage in a meaningful conversation with the difficult person being careful to not sound disrespectful, but pointing to the required changes," suggests Shah. Opening dialogue with the person can begin by establishing rapport and appreciation. "This can make them less defensive and put them in a more open frame of mind."

Employees should also be taught effective coping strategies in workshops and counselling sessions on how to use tact and respect when dealing with difficult colleagues. One way to try to overcome the obstacles presented by a difficult person is to focus on the positive characteristics the person possesses.

"Rather than focusing on the reasons not to like the person, try to focus on any positive encounters that have occurred in the past," says Anand, adding that focussing on the positive helps negative feelings fade. "If all else fails, then spending less time with the problematic colleague might be the only solution."

The three types of problematic colleagues
Mr/ Ms Always Busy
These are people who always appear busier than everybody else. They will always tell you that they are so busy that they can't do anything else. They refuse to help out or take on any responsibilities, citing the I-Am-Too-Busy reason.

Cause: Sometimes they really are over-burdened, but they often get involved in other activities (outside of work), so that they have less time for work itself. Some of them act busy to avoid work.

Effect: This type of person leaves everyone around feeling frustrated, annoyed and over-worked.They are often unreliable. In times of crisis, one cannot expect support from them.

Solution: Lead them to choosing the work you want them to do. Making them feel that they have consciously made a choice will make it more likely that they will prioritise the job. Also, timely and friendly reminders may work in certain situations.

Mr/ Ms Play Safe
These people are too scared to make a mistake. They steer away from responsibilities -- big and small -- because they don't want to risk their reputation or put their reputation on the line. They often tend to order colleagues and subordinates around to ensure that their supervisors do not get suspicious. They won't stand up for anyone.

Cause: A strong inferiority complex leads to this attitude. Also, those who view authority as a hostile entity are more prone to this type of behaviour. In general, they have a very pessimistic view of the world. They also have severe trust issues in their personal lives.

Effect: They make everyone around them feel insecure. The work environment is chaotic and tense, as everyone is trying to shrug off responsibility. Work may come to a stand-still.

Solution: To deal with such people, you need to boost their ego and constantly re-assure them. Encouragement and praise for even minor achievements will help them enjoy work and become more relaxed in the long run.

Mr/ Ms Know-it-all
These people appear helpful in the beginning -- always ready to help with problems ranging from your cell phone to your mother-in law. The problem starts when they start telling you how to do your work. They befriend people with low self-esteem for a constant dose of attention and admiration. They also tend to be poor listeners.

Causes: People who indulge in this sort of behaviour suffer from a severe lack of self-esteem, as they constantly try to prove their worth to the world. The exaggerated show of confidence is used to hide deep-seated feelings of self-doubt.

Effect: Having a colleague who is constantly boastful and interfering annoys others. This type of person disrupts the pace of work and can be distracting to have around.

Solution: The best way to deal with them is to not encourage their behaviour, but to do so without offending them. Give subtle hints that you don't need their advice right now. If you stop giving them attention, they will start to look elsewhere.

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