Administrative professionals face a variety of challenges throughout the workday — among them the unique personalities and behaviors of colleagues, vendors, clients and other business contacts. The high level of interaction you have with others on the phone and in person means you have increased odds of encountering difficult people at work.
Here are four tips that can help you deal with those who are far from friendly:
1. Kill them with kindness
A little “Southern charm” can go a long way in any region. Rude people sometimes act in a passive-aggressive manner to get a reaction out you (e.g., “No, I don’t expect you to bother getting out of your seat to find that information I need.”). Maintain a professional resolve, a genuine smile and an attitude of helpfulness. (“Really, it’s no bother at all. I’m happy to help. Let me look up that file right now, if you don’t mind holding for just one minute?”) If you’re not easily rattled, they may just stop trying to ruffle your feathers and even come to respect you for refusing to give in to provocation.
2. Keep calm at all times
If you are easily flustered or have a habit of complaining about small hiccups such as an uncooperative Outlook calendar or faulty printer, you may be an easy target. If you have siblings, just think of how they were more likely to pick on you if you got angry right away. You can discourage rudeness by appearing in control of your everyday responses. If you’re calm and collected, it may seem like too much work to try get a rise out of you.
3. Approach the problem head-on
If you find yourself frequently deflecting rude behavior from a particular person, calmly ask the offending individual if you’ve done something to upset or offend him or her. This is an important conversation and underscores your willingness to hear the other side. Sometimes people don’t even realize they’ve been rude, and your honesty could help them re-evaluate their actions. You may also learn that you’ve misinterpreted a situation.
Also do your part to end bad behavior when you see it’s affecting others. Perhaps you’re a receptionist and notice someone talking loudly on a cell phone in the lobby, clearly disturbing other people who are waiting. A gentle “I’m sorry, but it might be best to take your call outside for greater privacy” can put an end to the problem.
4. If you can't beat 'em, report 'em
Unfortunately, there are some workplace situations in which a person’s rudeness is overlooked because he or she is a high performer. Maybe it’s a top sales exec who belittles you in front of others. But an excellent performance record is no free pass for treating you unprofessionally. If you’ve tried the methods mentioned above and a coworker or other business contact is still persistently rude to you, inform your manager. Suffering through nastiness or verbal abuse is not in your job description.
Resist the urge to respond to rudeness with rudeness. That won’t get you anywhere, and can result in dreading the office in the morning. You may also get in trouble for your actions. Remember: Kill them with kindness, always be professional and expect to be treated with respect at the office, and you’ll be happier and more productive in your administrative career.