Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

I once dealt with a co-worker who, in my opinion, was harsh, intimidating, and belittling to her employees. In response, they reacted to her out of fear rather than loyalty. Since I was the Human Resources Manager for the facility and responsible for the employee culture, certain employees confided in me about how this behavior was negatively impacting the employees and the business. Changes needed to be made. 

I made several appeals to her direct supervisor to have this manager replaced, but he adamantly told me that this was not going to happen. So, the supervisor and I attempted to coach her to manage people in a more positive way. She did what we asked her to do, but I did not have any confidence that she was taking this change to heart, and that she was only “going through the motions” to keep her job. Her opinion and treatment of me was very adversarial. She considered me a “soft” HR manager with employees, but conversely “out to get her fired.” We eventually brought in an outside consultant to work one-on-one with her. This helped somewhat, but it was not enough. Her employees still did not trust her.

Shortly after her time with the consultant ended, she came into my office to speak with me. She sat down, holding back tears, and trying to maintain composure. After a few moments, she looked at me and said, “I’m not as bad of a person as you think I am.” Without another word, she left. This caught me completely off guard. I started to question myself: Had I misjudged her? Why did she feel the need to express that to me now? Was she in any way repentant for her behavior? After years of reflecting on this event, I realized that I was treating her as an enemy–against me and against what I considered the proper way to manage people. I had become judge and jury to her behavior. With enemies, the natural reaction is to overcome them and win the fight. But Christ tells us something different:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

Matthew 5:43-47

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In the age of an increasingly complex world of work, the truths in this book are so timely, and yet the principles here within are so timeless.

Keith Daniels
Former HR Executive, Small Business Owner, Directional Pastor, Member and Secretary of the Board of Trustees – The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY