Working With Difficult People

Working With Difficult People

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did

Newt Gingrich

As a good employee and a potential leader, the biggest responsibility is to continue to nurture the seed in oneself, keep up the energy levels and give the best output, everyday. But, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are several ways in which people around can create a pause in lifestyle and working hours. In addition to that, there can be uncomfortable situations.

Some common problems are mental and physical stress, lack of proper balance between workplace and family life, unfair treatment in the workplace, stressful life and workplace discrimination etc. Women, take things personally, when they have to deal with different kinds of difficult people, a difficult parent, or a difficult woman boss, flirtatious colleague/colleagues and what not! There are several types of difficulty that women undergo.

Insensitivity towards women employees 

Gender issues are taken for granted in our society, a fact that is reflected in most of the working cultures. What a woman employee wears, the way she walks and talks, her little inconsistencies and short-comings, are easily pointed out by male colleagues.

Debjani Talapatra, a prominent blogger , states how easily sexist and off-the-colour jokes are easily accepted in white-collar jobs, making the woman feel very humiliated. Sadly, in many cases, the humiliation is taken too lightly by the organisation and too seriously by the woman, often leading to resignations.

Sexual Harassment

There is no dearth of such cases, be it Tarun Tejpal from Tehelka or the TERI director R K Pachauri or the IT honcho Phaneesh Murthy.

Kavitha Rao, a Bengaluru based journalist writes how such cases have become quite common in India as working cultures are not equipped to have female workers/colleagues. Quite often, as the victims speak up, it gets even more difficult for them to deal with the consequences.

In many cases, there might not be a sexual harassment case but that of mental harassment, in which the woman is carefully targeted out, and berated frequently, making her lose her self-confidence and spark. Such situations are quite common if you deal with a difficult boss or a very nosy colleague. It can cause serious mental fatigue and trepidation for the women, who do not know how to break free. In many cases, complaining to the HR just won’t work. Anyway, when has a genuine complaint ever changed people?

Security Issues

Most of the offices have very strict office timings. What happens when there’s only one woman, the workaholic, who loves working late, alone on a floor? Surveys suggest that   9 out of 10 women in India would just want to leave with the others because they feel it’s unsafe to work.

According to the Assocham Social Development Foundation (ASDF), approximately 53% working women feel insecure, especially during night shifts in all major hubs of economic activity across the country. Most of them are employed in the BPO/IT sector, hospitality, civil aviation, and medical and textile space. There have been several cases of women employees working in BPO’s, who were molested or raped, after they were returning from late-night shifts.

Childcare the biggest problem or privilege?!

It is very difficult for a woman to start working once she has had a child. Most of the female workers literally beg their maids to stay late or try to make other arrangements. Many women prefer staying with their in laws, almost sacrificing personal ties with their husbands, just to have someone from the family manage their children.

All they can do is take a few days off, here and there, but the problem continues. It is one of the reasons, which encouraged Sridevi Raghavan of Amelio Child Care to start with day-care playschool, based at offices, making it easy for working parents.

The good news is that Sridevi is not the only woman who has actively worked at creating a solution. The ‘infamous glass-ceiling’ for women have been broken by several women. For example, it is quite delightful to know that Number of Fortune 500 women CEOs reaches a historic high. 

Sadly, in India, an analysis by Qlik, user-driven Business Intelligence (BI) Company states that only 8% of the Top 50 India CEOs are women. 

But things are different in the Tech industry, which still has a promising future. Some of the most innovative and important tech companies are being run by women CEOs. For example, Vanitha Narayanan, Managing Director, IBM India Private Limited, Neelam Dhawan, Managing Director, HP India, Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini India, Kirthiga Reddy, Head of Office, Facebook India, Kumud Srinivasan, President, Intel India.

The list is endless but the story here is important. These women would have also faced  similar difficulties, but they chose to fight it out, give it their best shot and that’s how they ended up where they are.

They weren’t born with a silver spoon and it’s their hard work and dedication that has brought them to their current leading roles.

Thus, the mantra is simple.

It isn’t possible to change anybody else apart from yourself

When it comes to dealing with difficult people in office, the only solution is to behave like a difficult person towards the problems. One’s gravity cannot be devalued. In cases of wanting to stay back, the HR must take full responsibility of safety. ASK, for cabs from offices, if you’re going home late. If a colleague is nosy, try having a genuine conversation once and if things don’t improve, a discussion with a sensible senior is a must. Every little deed matters. Make the issues known, speak up. Don’t shut up and stay in your cocoon. 

And always remember this. One need’s to be alert, all the time.


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