power your advice

How to Deal With the Curmudgeon

One of the most difficult people to work with is the cantankerous, bad-tempered Curmudgeon. We have seen them time and time again, keeping coworkers at bay by building up an invisible barrier of grumpiness that many of us would rather not cross.

They live in a world where they know exactly what they will work on and nothing more. They themselves have defined their responsibilities and know exactly how much effort they will muster on any one task. They are ill tempered and typically will bark first and ask questions later.

We’ve both worked with these Oscar the Grouch types and it’s difficult. Here are a few strategies on how best to work with the dreaded Curmudgeon.

Open a dialogue and don’t give up!

The Curmudgeon is counting on you to keep your distance. They would rather work in the limited abstract world they have created. The problem is they are in a dynamic organization and work has to be done. People have to work together.

Every journey begins with the first step and this is also true with those that actively keep you on the periphery. We say take a deep breath, set up a meeting and START the conversation.

They are typically stunned when someone starts an authentic business conversation with them, but don’t let that dissuade you. He or she will be negative through and through but push past it. In fact, expect it.

Outline your talking points prior to the first conversation and, as he begins to obstruct the dialogue with indignation, go back to your outline and carefully bring him back to yes.

Remember this is one of MANY conversations you will be having with them to get things done. It will be tempting to walk away - Don’t give up.

Related: New Job? Here's How to Make an Impact in Your First 90 Days

Choose your words with laser focus

Be ready to play the opposite game. The Curmudgeon will try and rip through any suggestions or dialogue you are creating - typically with some borderline unprofessional language. Every time they come up with grumpiness, anger and failure be ready to come back with cheerfulness, happiness and success.

Nothing throws off the Curmudgeon like choosing success over failure. Let them know you’re wholeheartedly on the side of success - for them, for you and for your organization.

Kindness and a smile

Choose kindness when forging a business relationship with these malcontents. We know it is not easy but don’t play into their game and react to their angry taunts. Rise above.

Be strong, be kind and smile. Keep to your deliverables and don’t let them off the hook. You never know, they may even come around. We have both seen the grumpiest of the grumpy turn out to be great business partners. It may have taken us an extra four months to forge the relationship, but well worth the time.

The Curmudgeon is a tough cookie but often worth the extra effort. Take the time to work through it and you’ll be surprised by the results.