How to Deal With Difficult Colleagues

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Some colleagues just drive us nuts. It's the things they say or do or how they talk to us. It's not even one single thing that can summarize a difficult colleague. Some people find it difficult if others complain all the time and others if someone is unreliable.  

Everything is a matter of perception

The first thing that we have to keep in mind when confronted with a difficult colleague, is that everything is a matter of perception and everything can be reframed. If you take someone who you would say is very critical or always complaining, keep in mind that someone else might find the person has an eye for the details or is very quality driven. 

Practicing to see the other side of things - according to the development square by Schulz von Thun - can be a good way to start seeing the grey between the black and white. A good exercise is, to note down all the things that you find difficult about your colleagues. Also note down all the things you think your colleagues find difficult about yourself. Then go through the exercise and reframe the things: picky might become 'knows what he wants', critical becomes thoughtful etc. If you do the exercise together with a couple of colleagues it might be easier. 

To learn how to deal with someone who is attacking or shouting at you, it's best to have a strategy that you iteratively adjust.

Don't get emotional

Don't put emotions into a situation that you don't want to escalate. Make sure to find some excuse that allows you to leave the situation or get back to the person later on. So let's say a colleague tells you 5 minutes before you will present the project plan to your boss that he already made a better proposal yesterday and forgot to tell you. Don't explode, stay professional, suck it up for now. You can talk to the person later, when you have obviously rational arguments for why that was totally inacceptable and what you suggest for the future.

Question Yourself

If there is something about someone that drives you completely nuts, question yourself if it's you. There are some things that you might project onto others: Maybe the person reminds you of your ex-partner and by now you hate that person. Or you are a person that feels criticized easily and everything you hear from that specific person is criticism - that might have nothing to do with what the person is actually trying to communicate. Check with other people how they perceive the person and reflect on yours. On top of that, start focusing on the positive things and strengths of the person. The halo effect might just ruin the person for you. 

Talk to the person

Don't talk behind her / his back but approach the person directly. If you start bitching about the person it's not fair play anymore and will eventually backfire on you anyways. Seek the conversation and try to follow the steps for negative feedback. Keep it on the objective level and use 'I messages'.

Keep your distance...

... if all the rest has not been working. That doesn't mean that you have to avoid the person completely - schedule the relevant and important meetings. Don't have unnecessary conversations about private life and don't pretend to be best friends with him / her. 

How to handle attacks

If you feel attacked in a meeting or personal conversation, it's also good to be prepared and have a strategy for it. There are some killer phrases people are using to make you shut up or turn down your idea within a second. That would be something such as "We have to do it like that. The customer wants it that way." or "That doesn't make any sense." Try to find out what the person really wants to tell you with that and don't feel intimidated. Your answer could be something like "What exactly does the customer want. How did you find out about it? How big is the data base?" etc. 

On top of that, it's good to have one sentence prepared how to handle an attack. You could be using a sentence that confuses the other person e.g. "Look at that." or "Oh well." and buys you some time. Or you can start out with something that builds up a bridge to your actual reply - "Oh that sounds interesting, let me think about it." this one also buys you some time to come up with an answer. Pick one sentence that you feel comfortable with and start using it: If you are attacked, your brain stresses out and you might be loosing your repartee. 

How to Do a Job Interview - A Beginner's Guide

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When is comes to hiring decision, team fit and curiosity overrule skills and expertise. Someone can easily learn something new but adapting and developing your personality in a way that will make him a great team fit is not as easy and probably won't happen. Moreover, if you think for example of soccer players: many excellent players that changed teams, didn't perform as expected because they didn't fit into the team. Some people even say that past performance, experiences and activities won't allow future predictions. 

To prepare for your job interview, prepare in general: come up with the things you want to tell the candidate about yourself, the company, the team, how you work with each other and what kind of team members you want. Make sure everyone in your team is on the same side but don't copy & paste something that will sound insincere.


Know the team values, requirements and the goal

Make sure you know your ideal candidate. Who are you looking for exactly and what values should the person have? Sit down with your team and discuss what kind of person you are looking for? What is important? What would make the candidate a good fit. Keep in mind that diversity is a big plus and give your team extra productivity. How can you improve or maintain your diversity when it comes to new candidates? 

The GOAL of the interview should be to leave a good impression on the candidate. You want the person to leave, knowing that this is a great company to work for. The person will tell this to his / her friends and maybe even write a good review on glassdoor or kununu. It could also happen, that you personally impressed that person so much, that you stay in touch later on and the person is willing to working with you later even if it didn't fit in the moment.

The OTHER GOAL is to find out what the drivers of the candidate are. What motivates the candidate? Does the person know what he wants: now and in the future? What should the team look like that he wants to work with, what does he value in his colleagues, what are the things he wants to be doing on a daily basis, how does he interact with colleagues? Find out about his career plans. Where does he see himself in the future, what skills does he want to deepen, what competencies does he see as career drivers, what are the things he seeks and what is he longing for? While listening to the answers you get an idea of the candidate and can also tell if the person will find what he is looking for in case he joins. Be transparent about the matches and mismatches.

Analyze the CV

What are the hints that the person already gave you in his / her cv. Did the person change jobs very often? What are the hobbies? Is there a common thread throughout the different companies and jobs? 

Give heads up

Let the candidate know beforehand what to prepare, what to expect and who will be in the interview. Make the purpose of the interview transparent: will it be more about testing the persons knowledge or about the team fit? Try to take as many question marks out of the way as possible. Does the person have to dress up? Where exactly is the office, which floor is it on? Are there many parking spots etc. If you develop a template for that you can easily copy paste it and use it over and over again.

During the Interview


Leave a great first impression. Make the candidate feel comfortable by welcoming her, showing her the office, let her have a glance at potential new team members, ask if she wants a coffee and don't make her wait. Thank her for taking the time. 

Connect with the person on a personal level. Connections are built on emotions and things people care about. Try to find things that connect you: hobbies, vacation, common experiences etc. Share something about yourself. If the person talks abbout her vacation, tell her about yours. By sharing things about yourself, you built up trust. 


Before asking the candidate any questions, you want to introduce yourself, the company, your team and talk about the open position. 

If you are not 100% sure about what to tell to the candidate, make sure you prepare this part once, maybe even in written form. Think through what the things are, that represent the company, the team, the position. Talk about company history, how it started, where you are headed, what the drivers are, why people work here etc. These are the things, that people love to learn about, that makes them connect to you and the company. You want to give people reasons to join, even if they already have some. Make sure the reasons you can provide and the ones that they already have are a match.

We were founded 5 years ago. Our product is about... (say something that your grandma would understand). Our current goal is xy, in the long run we want to be ...

Our vision is to do / to be xy... 

Our team is currently: size, nationalities, working language, etc. This is what we value: eg. going out for lunch together, leaving early, having long weekends. Our workstyle is very top down / bottom up. These are our core HR processes & how they work: goal planning, feedback, management feedback, team productivity, tools we are using etc. If you don't have any of that, also mention that. If you don't have any official ones but inofficial ones, mention that as well. 

For team spirit and culture, we like people that are proactive, think things through before they get them done. We like people who take ownership and finish the things they started. What we value the most though, is that you are honest - with others & yourself. That also means, if you have a bad day & are super unproductive, you just go home: it's obvious you won't get anything done. 

The position will be about... You can imagine a normal week like that... Your responsibility will be ...

Do you have any questions about it? What did you like most when you researched about our company?

If you are not the only person at your company who is interviewing people, make sure your interview experience will be more or less the same! It is part of your brand and product: people should get the same experience no matter who they talk to. When they leave you want them to talk about that awesome job interview they had one day at this really nice company. They should go home and be excited about your company, product and team - you want them to become promoters of your brand!


Leading the Conversation

You want to find out what the candidate expects from the work experience with you. You already work here, know what it's like and what is expected of you. Try to find out, if the candidate will be able to handle the expectations on a personal level and on the professional level. Hire someone who is motivated to pick up new skills and might not be able to meet the requirements 100% but will be a great addition to the team. People can learn anything!

Possible questions:

  • How are you currently working with your team?

  • What do you like about the company you are working with right now?

  • What do you value most in your current team lead?

  • How would your colleagues describe you?

  • What do you expect from the new position? What skills would you want to advance in? What do you see yourself doing on a daily basis?

  • Imagine it's 5 years from now, you started at our company and are about to leave again or already working in a new company, what would you say was the things you values most about working here and what did you learn?

You will find some more interview questions here. Make sure to have two people in the interview: one person leading the conversation, one person to observe the conversation, reading between the lines, and picking up on things that might have been a bit hidden. For example: if the person asks 3 times about the salary, it seems to be quite important. You can directly ask about it: How important is it? What would meet your expecations?

Make sure, to find out if you can give the person what he wants. If not, it's not a good fit. Disappointed expectations are very hard to fix. So also make sure to give a transparent image about future perspectives. If the person wants to be working without interactions with the team and you don't work like that, be transparent about it. Don't make empty promises and directly address when you see there is some mismatch (e.g. an individual office - sorry, but it is something that doesn't fit our understanding of team work).

Ending the Conversation

Summarize the things that you have learnt during the conversation, also what you think the candidates expectations are. Ask if the person has any further questions. Tell the person something specific about the upcoming next steps. For example:

About the next steps: We will get back to you until the end of the day / or: the end of the week. We have scheduled some more interviews for this week and then want to take a decision. If you already have a feedback for us after the interview, it would be great if you could let us know about your decision so we know if we can keep you in the process. If we agree to work with each other we usually sign the contract one week after (or whenever) and ask you upfront about equipment etc. so we have everything ready the day you start. Thank you so much for taking the time to meet us. It was great to talk to you and get to know you a bit. 

Walk the candidate out / accompany him to the elevator. Make sure to say goodbye properly. It's very important to get back to the candidate within the time frame that you mentioned in the job interview. Otherwise you appear to be unreliable and I - as a candidate - would already conclude that this is your regular workstyle which I can't accept.

If you decide to not work with the candidate, be sure to write a very nice email - in case you don't already have a nice template in place.

It could look something like that:

Hi Peter,

thank you so much for your interest in working with us and the time you took to apply. It was great to meet you in person and get a clear impression on what it is that you are looking for. Unfortunately we have to admit that we won't be able to meet your requirements and provide you the opportunities you are looking for. 

All the best,


How To Change Your Conflict Perception

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Quelle: Wikipedia

Quelle: Wikipedia

Conflicts are something we usually associate with something negative. We associate it with fightig, war and conflicting opinions. In a stabe relationship it's not a problem to have two conflicting opinions or to simply disagree on something. The part that actually lets a conflict arise are our emotions, interpretations and evaluations. It's the way that we handle the conflict, perceive and treat the other person. We can be appreciative and still disagree on something or just enforce what we want on the cost of the other person.  

Once a conflict is started, it starts its own dynamic. One way to get out of it, is to acknowledge the other person's emotions and resolve whatever has built up on that level. Once this is taken care of, we can espace the conflict ladder and talk about the actual subject / object we seemed to be fighting about.


There are different types of people when it comes to conflict behavior. Everyone has their own strategy when a conflict comes up. Depending on who you are with or in which context you are in, you might choose different strategies. When we look for example at 'enforcement' we can see, that this strategy will get you what you want but you pay a price: you won't be able to maintain the (good) relationship with that person. 

Most of the times we settle on compromises. Looking at the graphics, you can tell that the compromise doesn't give you the best possible outcome and you also can't keep the relationship the way you had it. 

So how can we get to the win-win cooperation? 

Focus on the person

When you talk to someone about a topic that seems to be getting kind of hot: focus on the feelings and needs of the other person. It could be that the person didn't see himself represented in the process or not appreciated. If you notice something, directly bring it up. Otherwise the conversation will go in circles because it is not really about the subject anymore.

Find out what the other one really really wants

Many times, what we really really want is appreciation. E.g. let's say you have a discussion around working hours. Is it about the working hours themselves or is it actually about fairness, appreciation and balance? It could even be about productivity and the concern of not being able to provide the best possible outcome in the fastest possible way because you are tired. Let the other person know about your thoughts directly. Find a common ground that you can base the discussion on. Maybe both of you want the best possible outcome and fairness.  

Don't make assumptions or interpretations

We are used to evaluate, judge and interpret things. When we see someone walking into a meeting three minutes after we started, we will say "you are late". This is a judgement. An interpretation could even be "you are a mean and thoughtless person who made us wait" or "you are respectless because you are stealing our time" or "you did that on purpose to show how powerful you are". A description would have been "you are walking into the meeting three minutes after the agreed starting time". Every interpretation, judgement or evaluation can harm our team members and the relationship we have - especially when we assume or conclude the "wrong" things (it doesn't match the ones the other person as). If you describe to the other person what happened and let them know how it impacted you, you lay the foundation for a fruitful conversation.