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Labour Complexity

How to Deal With Difficult People

Everyone’s got ‘that guy.’ You know, the one you envision punching in the face daily. Here’s how to deal with them without a lawsuit or getting fired.




Can you believe this guy? Never acknowledges your presence. Interrupts you in meetings. Yawns in your face. Mocks your wardrobe. Smacks his chewing gum. Talks to you like you’re eight years old. Keeps asking to borrow R20 even though the chip packs in the vending machine are only R5.

Never pays you back. Slaps you on the back while you’re drinking coffee. Exists on the earth. Haunts your dreams.

You gonna respond to all that offence? Of course you are. But you’re not going to reveal that you can’t stand the guy. You’re not going to act annoyed. Acting annoyed or put upon or beleaguered suggests that you have lost some control, that you’ve been thrown off your game.

Related: 4 Ways to Diffuse a Toxic Workplace

In business, restraint is the only means of disarming the jerk.

(That and, you know, firing, ending your partnership with or having the jerk arrested for stealing your money and slapping you. But for the purposes of this column, let’s assume your counterpart must, for professional reasons, remain in your universe.)

Staying clean when things get dirty

Etiquette is about taking the high road. But when dealing with someone you can’t stand, it’s not enough to take the high road. You want to be in a car on that high road. Better yet: A large truck. Windows up

Both hands on the wheel. You want to stay clean. You don’t want to provide the other party with any evidence that you can be a jerk yourself. If the person’s behaviour is actually sinister, then you’re only falling into their trap. And there’s a lot at stake when you fight jerkiness with jerkiness.

Remember that you might be in the truck, but (and this metaphor is about to get a lot more strained) you’re pulling a trailer that is your business and your reputation. Big trailer. Huge. With fragile cargo.

“For me, it’s the ten-second rule – it’s not doing anything on the spot,” says Gianna Provenzano, CEO of Gianna and Company, a US-based wedding- and event-planning business. “Once you say something, you can’t pull it back in. It’s about picking your fights.”

Ten seconds at a minimum. We’d suggest 20, even 30. A minute. Maybe an hour. In business, 80% of responding appropriately is not responding at all. What we’re talking about is under-reacting.

The problem with any kind of talking in a professional environment is that you’re giving up your position. And when you act indignant, your position is revealed to be a swamp of weakness and bad temper. An overt response is almost always a mistake. You might be in a swamp of indignation, but you don’t want to reveal that.

You’re going to regret doing battle. And you’re going to regret it because a battle can happen only when someone gets to win. But there’s no winning among associates.

As Tom Junod, my colleague and long-time Esquire writer, said in his essay A Philosophy of Fighting: “Anyone can win … if they’re willing to win at the cost of love and respect. The question is, who can abstain from winning, who can resist the temptation of winning.”

Winning is what businesses do. Navigating is what business people do. An interpersonal issue is never conquered; it’s traversed.

Recalibrate your simmering rage

If the first thing to do is shut up, the second thing to do is think of a few things that might be causing the other person to behave in a way that you can’t stand. Maybe they lost a lot of money at the horse track.

Maybe their father never said, “I love you.” Maybe their underpants are literally, somehow, in defiance of the laws of physics, in some sort of knot. This will cut through your outrage and recalibrate you back to the sympathetic human being you are. And once you’re recalibrated, you should do this: Stare.

Look bewildered.

Say, “Huh.” 

Bemused is the reaction you’re going for. Say “Huh” the same way you would say it if you were walking down the street and saw a Chihuahua walking on its hind legs while wearing a sailor suit.

You know, “Huh.” You’re not smiling. You’re not frowning. You’re nonplussed. The series of questions implied by your furrowed brow is: What’s wrong with you? Why would you behave in such a manner? Where does one find such a tiny sailor outfit? Bewilderment is underrated. It places the onus on the offender to answer a question, without you having to ask it.

It’s about breaking the expectation of the offending party, according to Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder and COO of BlogHer, a women-focused cross-platform media network:

“It’s all about ‘hands,’ as Seinfeld would say. If you can’t have the upper hand, you at least have the equal hand. It’s very psychological. You’re trying to disarm their usual pattern.”

Is it passive-aggressive? Of course it is. But in the relatively dignified environment of business, this is the only kind of aggressiveness available to you. So employ it.

It’s an elegant thing, disrupting the jerk. The offender has pushed things to a state of imbalance. Your subtly expressed bewilderment will recalibrate the situation, and the calibration is exclusively in your favour. You’ll be in an advantageous position: Free to go about your business.


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Key Technical Matters

  • Fight the urge to fight — verbally or physically. Psychologically is fine.
  • When talking to someone you can’t stand, never use the phrase, ‘I have to be honest.’ What follows won’t be pretty, and honesty isn’t necessarily the right approach.
  • Make a list of the things you don’t like about the person.
  • Cross off the things that are minor nuisances.
  • If there are more than five things still on the list, you may be dealing with a jerk.
  • If there are more than ten things still on the list, you may, in fact, be dealing with a sociopath.
  • To determine if the person you can’t stand is your enemy, say the person’s name out loud. If you are squinting and shaking your fist, the person is your enemy
  • If you are squinting, shaking your fist and sneering, then the person is your archenemy.
  • If you are squinting, shaking your first, sneering and stroking a white cat, then you are an evil genius in a James Bond movie, and you need to relax.



Company Posts

Keys To Simplify Payroll Compliance

Human resources departments across the country cite compliance as one of the top challenges they face. As an SME owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your company’s personnel business practices adhere to the current laws.






Keeping accurate records to document your company’s compliance is just the beginning, says Ania Strydom, Compliance Specialist at Sage. 

1. Why is payroll compliance so important?

Payroll is the biggest expense for most employers. Employers must comply with all labour and tax laws that govern the payroll to avoid financial and legal risks and to protect the employees and the business. The risks of getting it wrong include:

  • Censure
  • Interest or fines by authorities
  • Imprisonment in cases of fraud or extreme negligence.

Payroll fraud is one of the most common white-collar crimes in the business world; what’s more, inaccurate payments and non-compliance can cost a business dearly.

Related: How To Get The Most From Your Payroll Solution With The Sage Academy

2. What are the implications for staff if a company is non-compliant?

non-compliant-companyThe payroll is one of the most crucial links in the employee-employer relationship. Late or inaccurate wage and salary payments, or inaccurate calculations of other earnings (such as overtime), deductions (such as PAYE and UIF), and contributions (such as retirement fund or UIF contributions) can be extremely damaging to the morale of the workforce.

By law, every employee is entitled to a payslip and tax certificate (IRP5/IT3(a)). Employees need payslips for purposes such as applying for personal or home loans. Accurate and easy to understand payslips will boost employee satisfaction and trust in the company, with a positive impact on business performance.

What’s more, employers must make sure UIF contributions are correct so that employees get the full amount they are entitled to if they need to claim.

3. How will the company’s growth prospects be affected if the company is non-compliant?

While an efficient payroll system enhances staff morale and boosts an organisation’s reputation, mistakes in record-keeping and compliance can result in punitive penalties and hurt the company’s brand. Compliance mistakes with payroll can be expensive and potentially catastrophic which subsequently results in business risks.

Related: How Do I Go About Valuing My Business?

4. How can a business ensure it is payroll compliant?

South African tax regulations and labour laws are and continue to be more complex. Keeping track of all the payroll legislative requirements can be challenging, but the risks of non-compliance are high and businesses can no longer rely on spreadsheets and other manual methods to do their calculations, report and file returns.

Automated solutions are becoming more essential for keeping reliable records, reporting and performing accurate payroll calculations.

The package you choose should:

  • Be tailored for the local tax law, labour law and regulatory environment
  • Manage all the complex calculations and regulatory reporting the business must do timeously
  • Feature automated updates to ensure the company always processes on the latest software and legislative version.

This will ensure it avoids censure, fines, penalties, interest and/or imprisonment as a result of non-compliance.

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Company Posts

Why Your Employees’ Health Is Your SME’s Wealth

Absenteeism costs R16 billion annually, according to Stats SA. That’s a lot more than it costs to sign up for a group offering that is specifically designed for small to medium enterprises.





Vital Stats

Fedhealth’s Commercial Executive, Michelle Morton explains the importance of group health cover to keep your SME’s pulse strong.

1. Why is it important for a SME to care about the health of its employees?

First, when an employee in a critical role within the SME falls ill, there’s often nobody else to fill the skills void created by his or her absence. This can have a detrimental effect on the daily operations and business output.

Second, offering sound medical aid may attract and retain the right talent to the business.

Third, choosing a medical aid like Fedhealth, which places a big emphasis on preventative health and wellness, can also assist the SME owner in cultivating a healthy culture in the workplace.

Related: Fedhealth Brings Healthy Benefits to your Staff

2. What should business owners consider when looking for a group medical plan?

Apart from factors like affordability, a good reputation, and ability to pay claims, look for schemes that offer value-added services, such as wellness days where staff can undergo crucial health screenings, and programmes to address specific health issues.

3. What are the top health concerns for today’s workforce?

Back and neck pain are second to headaches when it comes to painful conditions affecting humans — especially office workers, who are often desk-bound for hours on end. Fedhealth offers qualifying members a 12-week Conservative Back and Neck Rehabilitation programme to help correct the problem through exercise and behaviour.

Diabetes and hypertension are also on the rise, while some employees face HIV/Aids, weight issues or struggle to quit smoking. Fedhealth provides assistance for all these diseases and health concerns.

4. How will the employees benefit from working for a company with a great group medical plan?

I believe it makes the business a more attractive place of work for employees, as medical aid is a much-needed benefit and costly if one has to pay for it out of one’s own pocket.

Related: Why Fedhealth Believes In The Power Of The SMME Sector

5. Please explain the importance of the SOS Corporate Wellness benefit

The Sisters-on-Site service (SOS Corporate Wellness) is a value-add as it brings basic healthcare to the office. This means that staff can regularly see a qualified nursing sister at their place of work for minor health issues, instead of having to take time off work to visit the doctor or clinic.

Employees build a rapport with the sister, as they see her on a frequent basis. Through the SOS Corporate Wellness benefit, they can also conduct important health screenings that might flag serious health issues of which the employees might be unaware. Sisters-on-Site can also facilitate monthly health themes to raise employee awareness on issues like breast cancer.


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Company Posts

Why HR Legislation Compliance Can Curb Business Failure

Don’t let your business reputation get dented due to non-compliance.



HR Legislation Compliance

HR Legislation Compliance

Vital Stats

Millennium Support Services is designed to afford all business enterprises the opportunity to have Human Capital Management for their business.

“It is just unfortunate that non-compliance is exactly that “non-compliance” and most small businesses reputation gets dented or even fully destroyed, in the event that they are being accused of non-compliance by employees and statutory bodies” says Sharon Tshabalala CEO of MSS.

“Small businesses have no resources yet at the same time are not exempted from compliance. So, through the use of technology we are able to provide easily accessible HR services across the board.”

Related: Human Resources Management Demystified

Millennium Support Services provides businesses with exclusive distinctions of its service, so that you can ensure that your business remains compliant.

Human Resource Policies


The advantage it has over other online HRM systems is that it offers online access to Human Resource policies based on approved legislative framework.

1Independent Representation

In cases where disciplinary proceedings have to be under taken, an independent chairperson will be made available. When disputes have been escalated to the CCMA, a Labour Relations Expert will represent the employer.

2Disciplinary Policy

The primary purpose of discipline is to encourage employees to correct their conduct and/or discourage employees from breaching standards of conduct. Depending on the nature of the breach, there are five forms of disciplinary sanctions taken against employees – either formal or informal.

Namely: Verbal Warning, Written Warning, Final Written Warning, Suspension of Salary and finally Dismissal.

3Grievance Policy

The purpose of this policy is to give guidance and to provide a framework on how to raise and deal with grievances effectively at the earliest possible stage. There are three types of Grievance which have an informal/formal procedure.

Namely: Mild Grievance, Serious Grievance and Sensitive Grievance.

Related: Is Leveraging Your Resources Getting The Job Done Properly?

4Occupational Help Policy

The purpose of this policy is to establish minimum standards and requirements of occupational health and safety for the corporation in order to reduce the risk by:

  • Identifying hazards and possible risks causing incidents and accidents,
  • Setting standards of practice, procedures and accountability,
  • Measuring performance against standards, Evaluating compliance with standards,
  • Correcting deficiencies, deviations, and set standards of procedures to be followed,
  • Creating and maintaining a healthy and a safe work environment.

HR management is a specialist field, with many laws and regulations to navigate. If you don’t have a background in this field and can’t afford to hire a full-time HR specialist, consider outsourcing this function.

Millennium Support Services – Human Capital Management made easy.

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