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Autism & Asperger Connections 4/5/14. Workplace Skills Group. 1:00-1:05 – Welcome & Agenda Review 1:05-1:35 – College Living Experience (Guest Speaker) 1:35-1:45 – Break 1:45-2:15 – Handling Difficult Workplace Situations 2:15-2:25 – Break

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today s agenda
1:00-1:05 – Welcome & Agenda Review

1:05-1:35 – College Living Experience (Guest Speaker)

1:35-1:45 – Break

1:45-2:15 – Handling Difficult Workplace Situations

2:15-2:25 – Break

2:25-2:50 – Handling Difficult Workplace Situations

2:50-2:55 – Assignment

2:55-3:00 – Q&A / Wrap-Up

Today’s Agenda



Fact: You will encounter conflict and difficulties in the workplace. Conflict is a normal and natural occurrence when people interact regularly.


difficult workplace situations
Primary causes of conflict in the workplace:

Communication issues

Personality differences


Non-compliance with workplace rules or policies




Some conflicts are to be expected – while others are clearly unacceptable

Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations1
Communication Issues

Communication issues are the most common cause of conflict in the workplace.

How to handle communication issues:

Address misunderstandings/other communication issues right away

Be aware of the “unspoken rules” for communication in the workplace

Use effective communication skills:

Gather your thoughts before speaking

Be specific, direct, and concise

Pay attention to your listener and take turns speaking

Ask open-ended questions to seek understanding

See our January WSG presentation on “Effective Workplace Communication” for helpful tips and examples

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations2
Personality Differences

The workplace brings together diverse personalities (and backgrounds, cultures, belief systems, etc.). If you find yourself frequently irritated by things a coworker says or does, you may be dealing with a personality difference.

How to handle personality differences:

Ask yourself whether the issue is worth addressing

If it is worth addressing (because it negatively affects you or your work), address the problem respectfully but clearly

Frame the problem as an “I” statement to minimize defensiveness – for example: “I prefer not to talk politics at work” (instead of “Stop talking to me about politics”)

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations3

Disagreements are guaranteed to happen. Whether you find yourself disagreeing with your supervisor or a co-worker, having a strategy to handle disagreements will help.

How to handle disagreements:

Frame your disagreement as a question, such as “What about…” or “Could you tell me more…” to address your concerns in a respectful way

Seek to understand where the other person is coming from

Ask for a break if you’re getting too stressed/emotional

Realize that sometimes you’ll have to “agree to disagree” or support a directive even though you disagree with it (such as a company policy, etc.)

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations4
Non-compliance with workplace rules or policies

Whether a co-worker is disregarding a workplace policy, or you are the one not following the rules, non-compliance is a common source of workplace conflict.

How to handle non-compliance:

Ensure you understand and follow workplace policies/rules

When someone you work with is not following workplace rules:

Check company policy. Some companies have detailed instructions on how to handle non-compliance problems in the work environment.

If no such policies exist, decide how to approach the problem based on the impact to your work or the overall workplace. Sometimes you can correct a problem through a simple discussion. In other cases you may need to go to your manager or Human Resources (HR).

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations5

You may experience bullying in the workplace. Whether the bully frequently criticizes you, conveniently “forgets” to give you important information, or talks badly about you to others, bullying is abusive and can have a destructive impact on you and your work performance.

Definition of bullying:

Bullying is defined as persistently aggressive and/or unreasonable behavior against a person. It’s bullying when someone is singling you out, and being more than just annoying or rude. In short, bullies intentionally try to harm you and your ability to do your work.

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations6
How to handle bullying:

Evaluate the situation. Is this person nasty to everyone, or just you? Some people are simply unpleasant and difficult to work with. Assess the situation objectively before figuring out how to proceed.

Stand up for yourself. Remain calm and polite, but set your limits firmly. Keep your emotions in check and respond to bullying with a simple statement like “I don’t think your tone is appropriate.”

Document your situation. If the bullying continues, document your interactions with this person. Keep a detailed written log of what he/she says and does, as well as what you say and do in response.

Get management involved. If it becomes clear that the bullying is not going to stop despite your best efforts, involve your supervisor or Human Resources (HR) department. Describe what is happening (using your documentation) and how it is impacting your work.

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations7

Sometimes bullying crosses over into harassment. If you experience harassment or hostile treatment in the workplace, it’s important to know your options so you can take appropriate action.

Definition of workplace harassment:

Workplace harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct that denigrates or shows hostility towards another person on the basis of any characteristic protected by law (which includes an individual’s race, color, gender, ethnic or national origin, age, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity).

Conduct is considered unwelcome if the employee did not solicit, instigate, or provoke it, and the employee regards the conduct as undesirable or offensive.

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations8
How to handle harassment:

Do not ignore the situation – address it right away

The first (and often most effective) step to take is to tell the person to stop. Let them know their behavior is unwelcome.

For example, if someone repeatedly tells ethnic jokes around you, you might say “I think ethnic jokes are offensive, so please do not tell them in my presence.”

If the person continues the harassment, then report the situation to your supervisor or Human Resources (HR) representative

For more information about workplace harassment, visit

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations9

If you experience discrimination during your job search, the interview process, or in the workplace, it’s important to know your rights. Federal Equal Employment Opportunity law prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Definition of job discrimination:

Job discrimination includes discriminatory practices in any aspect of employment, including hiring and firing; compensation, assignment, or classification; transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall; job advertisements; recruitment; testing; use of company facilities; training programs; fringe benefits; pay, retirement plans, and disability leave; or other terms and conditions of employment.

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


handling difficult workplace situations10
How to handle general job discrimination:

If you believe your employment rights have been violated, you may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

How to handle discrimination related to the ADA:

There is no hard and fast rule as to whether or not you should disclose your diagnosis

There is no law that says you must tell a potential employer or current employer about your diagnosis – unless you want to request protections or accommodations under the ADA

To learn more about ADA provisions and potential accommodations, visit the Rocky Mountain ADA Center:

Handling Difficult Workplace Situations


How does conflict affect you? How do you usually deal with conflict?

What other difficult situation have you faced in a work (or similar) environment? How did you handle it?

Which tips from today’s presentation were most helpful to you?



assignment for next meeting
May WS Group Topic: “Job Fair with Local Employers” – Details TBD

Assignment for next meeting

If you’re currently looking for a job:

Complete several job applications and turn them in to employers

If you’re currently employed:

Sign up for free training and career development workshops at

Assignment for Next Meeting