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Is Your Co-Worker Plain Rude or Simply Difficult – What is the Difference?

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

As people, we engage in a host of behaviors that are both inspiring and destructive. So, there should be no surprise that rude people can be challenging to deal with and difficult people can be extremely impolite. That said, have you ever had an encounter with someone and wondered, where are their manners, or better yet, if they really know what they've just said? Rude people have a knack for displaying insensitive, and offensive behavior towards others that goes against what society deems as acceptable in a given situation. It is the act of being uncivil, and frankly, out of order. These unsettling encounters can be intentional or unintentional and take many people by surprise. Excessive rudeness is often the product of what lies beneath, such as, low self-esteem, jealousy, prejudice beliefs, personal fears, and even social anxiety. Nonetheless, malicious intent and offensive (abusive) behavior is a doorway to outright bullying.

Rude, bully-like behavior in the workplace shows in many different ways. Ignoring a colleague who's trying to share information, and not acknowledging a colleague's response or suggestion during a meeting, are just two examples of being rude in the workplace. Rising above disrespectful colleagues requires a confident, and collected approach. Your Goal Is Not to Stoop, But Rise Above in A Matter of Fact Way! Your response should be logical, composed and straight to the point.

On the other hand, difficult people have a talent for zapping people’s energy before, during, and after an encounter. Why? Because difficult people are often hard to understand, hard to please and hard to deal with; as a result, we often mull over the encounter for an extended period. Prime example, have you ever been confused with how one-minute a colleague/boss is undeniably unapproachable and the next minute they are funny and cautiously likable? Or, when a person seemingly refuses to acknowledge you, and within the hour, they initiate conversation as if you didn't just see them?  These waves of behaviors force us into a world of confusion, driving the steadiest most sophisticated communicator nuts!

With difficult people, it is essential to understand that as their intentions change so does their behavior. People with good intentions don’t always take a paved road, making it agonizing to deal with them. Navigating challenging people in the workplace requires both strategic thinking and an artful approach. Nonetheless, human behavior takes on many different personas, frankly, we all have the potential to be both rude and difficult. To overcome the impact this person has on you make a conscious effort to change three things;

1. your attitude,

2. the way you anticipate encounters, and

3. how you respond to questionable behaviors.

Knowing the difference between being rude and difficult will put you on a path to identifying effective strategies for navigating both. But first you have to decide, is your boss or co-worker blatantly rude or irritatingly difficult?

For more information on how to deal with difficult people in the workplace, or on management coaching and training services, call Kesi Howard at or log onto Call today, 412-557-2966.

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