Leadership

How to work with anyone: A chat with Amy Gallo

October 4, 2023

How to work with anyone: A chat with Amy Gallo

Amy Gallo

Contributing Editor at Harvard Business Review, Podcaster, and Author

Amy Gallo, author and contributing editor of the Harvard Business Review, is an expert in conflict, communication, and workplace dynamics.

Amy Gallo is one of the foremost experts in conflict, communication, and workplace dynamics. She has the unique ability to articulate the latest management research in an easy-to-understand and executable fashion. Amy has also authored two books, Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and The Harvard Business Review Guide to Dealing with Conflict. She is also a contributing editor at the Harvard Business Review and the host of Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work Podcast.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Amy about her latest book and her views on conflict resolution in the workplace.

Conflict happens

Although conflict resolution and management principles are not everyone’s favorite topics of conversation, they’re incredibly important to understand in the business world because conflict in the workplace is inevitable. As long as you’re working and interacting with other people, there will always be some form of conflict.

These conflicts only become a problem when they are not handled appropriately. Businesses unable to hash out both internal and external conflicts will not run at their peak potential. Even worse, they may start to decline. For example, during Amy’s time as a management consultant, she saw a merger completely fall apart when the two merging companies were unable to hash out their conflicts.

The 8 familiar types of difficult coworkers

Before trying to resolve conflicts, it’s important to know the type of person or people involved in the conflict. This is because there isn’t one end-all-be-all conflict resolution strategy that works for everyone. To make things simple, Amy has broken down all of the difficult people you might face at work into eight different categories, which are: insecure bosses, pessimists, victims, passive-aggressives, know-it-alls, tormentors, biased coworkers, and political operators.

Strategies for dealing with coworkers

While understanding the different types of difficult coworkers is a good start, you cannot simply classify a person as one type or another without understanding the context. For example, a person might not naturally be a pessimist, but instead, they might be reacting to the fact that someone else is coming off as a know-it-all.

Rather than putting someone into one of these camps and moving on, you should try to address the root of the problem and understand why they are acting in a certain way. For instance, if you are dealing with an insecure boss, although it might feel very unnatural, you may want to try to give them a compliment. Or, if instead, you are dealing with a tormentor, trying to change the balance of power and showing them that you have a helpful skill or a helpful piece of knowledge might help.

Conflict resolution, at its heart, is about understanding the context in which conflict occurs and addressing the root issues at hand. Amy’s new book helps readers understand how to take the high road to successfully navigate your toughest relationships at work.

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