Archive for the ‘Dealing With Difficult People’ category

Do you know why doubters can HELP you achieve your dreams? (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 15, 2011

Whenever you try to do something big or something for the first time, people will doubt you.  Do not be surprised when this happens.  This is the byproduct of most people aiming way too small with how they live their lives.  More specifically, there are 5 main reasons why people will doubt you can achieve your dreams:

  • They think they are helping you.  This happens often with our family and closest friends.  As a student, one of my family members told me I should be “more realistic” when it came to my first job out of college.  Even though this bothered me, I knew her heart was in the right place.  She thought she was doing me a favor by not letting me get my hopes up only to be disappointed (since she thought I would fail).
  • They don’t believe they could succeed. Another reason people will doubt you is because they don’t believe they could do what you are trying to achieve, either because they tried and gave up, or because they have never tried.  Several years ago, I went to lunch with a group of professional speakers who were much older than me.  During our meal, I shared my dream of publishing a book.  Immediately, the entire group shared their stories of being unable to get a publisher to offer them a book deal, and a few of them implied how “impossible” it would be for me to publish a book “at this stage of my career.”  Let me emphasize one point.  I was at lunch with a group of motivational speakers.  These people are supposed to inspire others for a living, and they were shooting down my dream!  Since I ultimately made it happen, I think this is actually pretty ironic and humorous.  Anyway, the message is this.  Most people (even some motivational speakers) have allowed life to beat them down.  Never allow someone else’s failures, insecurity, or lack of faith to dictate whether you believe your dreams are possible. 
  • You are trying to succeed faster.  Other people might doubt you because they make the mistake of thinking that it’s not possible for someone else to get somewhere sooner than they did.  When I was a senior in college, I shared my dream of working in pro sports with a senior executive from a team in the NFL.  He had been unable to get a job in sports right after college, so he told me it would be “impossible” for me to do it.  He then suggested I get experience in another industry and consider applying for jobs in sports 5-10 years later.  (This is an example of one of the terrible pieces of advice given to me as a young professional.)
  • They don’t like your dream. Don’t expect all of your friends or family members to be excited about your vision.  I don’t know your particular situation, so all I will say is that when you reach adulthood, it’s time to make your own decisions.  One of the biggest recipes for unhappiness is to bury your dreams in order to make other people happy.  As long as your dream does not hurt you or anyone else, then go after it with everything you have.   
  • Some people actually don’t want you to succeed.  This is also known as being a “hater.”  Yes, this sounds jaded, but it’s true.  Some people incorrectly believe there is a finite supply of happiness or success available in the world.  As a result, they think that if you are happy or successful, it somehow makes it less likely for them to be.  The truth is that there is an infinite supply of success and happiness available to anyone willing to put in the necessary effort.

The overall message is this: do not expect everyone to support your dreams unconditionally.  Instead, use doubts or criticism as added motivation.  In a way, I got my first dream job (to become an NBA executive) and my second dream job (to become a published author) because people doubted me, not in spite of people doubting me.  I used doubts from other people to ignite my conviction that I would succeed.  Doubters made me want it more and gave me an “enemy” to fight against.  The challenges unleashed my competitive juices and my desire to win.  I learned at an early age that your ultimate success has nothing to do with what other people think about your dreams.  Your success or failure will be the result of how you respond to fear, what you tell yourself is possible, and the subsequent actions you are willing to take to make your dreams a reality. 

Have you ever used doubts from other people as extra motivation to achieve one of your dreams?  If so, please share below!

P.S. To receive a FREE 25-page report on Job Search and Career Success Secrets for Students and Young Professionals, visit my web site at

-Pete Leibman (

-Author of “I Got My Dream Job And So Can You: The Blueprint For Career Success As A Young Professional” (due out through AMACOM in spring 2012)

-Founder of Dream Job Academy

-Keynote Speaker for The Dream Job College Tour

Creator of The Washington Wizards’ Sports Careers Day


7 Secrets for Dealing With Difficult People and Overcoming Interpersonal Conflicts At Work (Written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

February 7, 2011

There’s no way around it.  Whether it’s an annoying customer, a critical colleague, or an awful boss, we all have to deal with difficult people at work sometimes.  Here are 7 secrets for dealing with difficult people and overcoming interpersonal conflicts at work:

  1. Don’t take it personally.  No one is born with a rotten attitude; people lash out when they don’t know how to deal with stress and adversity in a healthy way.  Last year, I was involved in a networking group, and one of the women in the group was incredibly abrasive and critical.  I later learned that her young daughter had just been diagnosed with cancer.  That tragedy did not give her the right to disrespect us, but it made it easier for me to understand why she did.  At work, you usually won’t know what’s going on in someone’s personal life.  If someone is difficult, it probably has absolutely nothing to do with you, so don’t take it personally.    
  2. Consider your role.  Having said that, you might have had something to do with the other person’s poor attitude!   As hard as it might be, when someone is critical, you have to listen to what is being said, and ignore how it is being said.  Did you do something that brought on the reaction?  For example, one of my roommates recently lashed out at me when I mistakenly threw out some of his kitchen tools during an overenthusiastic New Year’s Day cleaning session.  While I did not like how he discussed this with me, what he was saying was totally accurate.  I was 100% wrong for throwing out several of his items without asking if he still wanted them.  Ultimately, I was the cause of his reaction, and I took accountability by agreeing to replace the items.
  3. Fight fire with water.  If someone lashes out at you, it’s very tempting to fire back.  However, that will only make the situation worse.  Always keep your cool and stay calm, no matter how hard that might be.  If necessary, excuse yourself for a few minutes and get some fresh air outside.  Let the other person vent, and choose your words very carefully when you respond.  You will be amazed at how people calm down when you hear them out and consider their perspective.
  4. Kill them with kindness.   You should never let people walk all over you just for the sake of keeping the peace.  However, many difficult people have low self-esteem and are actually just crying out for some genuine appreciation.  Especially if the person is a subordinate or colleague, consider being a source of encouragement.
  5. Talk it out in-person.  Never go behind someone’s back because that will only make the other person even angrier if it gets back to him/her.  I made that mistake once at the start of my career after college.  You should also not rely on email or texting to discuss disputes.  Talk face-to-face (ideal) or via phone, if an in-person meeting is not possible.  Discussing a conflict over lunch can also serve to clear the air and help you repair or improve a strained relationship. 
  6. Involve other people carefully.  If you have failed to settle a dispute with another person, then (and only then) consider bringing in other people to help with a resolution.  Just be certain that the difficult person knows you will be bringing in someone else for help.
  7. If all else fails, minimize interactions.  Sometimes, no matter what you do, you will not be able to improve your relationship with a colleague, boss, or customer.  In that case, either eliminate all interaction with the person (that’s probably not possible if the difficult person is your boss!) or minimize the time spent with him/her as much as possible.  Your #1 responsibility is to keep yourself happy.

Like this post or got something to add on how to deal with difficult people at work?  Please comment below!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour

Creator of The Washington Wizards’ Sports Careers Day


Twitter: @peteleibman

P.S. To learn more about my 1-on-1 career coaching programs or my speaking availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour, please send an email to

4 Lessons to Learn From the Owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 13, 2010

Lebron James' fatheads are now available for $17.41...hmmm...

In case you don’t follow the sports world at all, you have missed a soap opera in the NBA over the last week.  2-time NBA MVP, Lebron James, decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat, a move that shocked the NBA and angered Cavaliers’ fans worldwide.  In response, Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, retaliated with a scathing letter posted on the Cavaliers’ web site

Gilbert referred to his former franchise player as “narcissistic” and a “coward,” while later stating that James “gave up” on the team during several playoff games over the last few years.  Additionally, Gilbert even made the childish move the following day of changing the price of a Lebron James’ product on one his web sites from $99 to $17.41 (note: famous traitor, Benedict Arnold, was born in 1741).

Given that the owner was aggressively trying to re-sign James until he decided to leave for Miami last week, Gilbert’s actions are analogous to a guy who professes his love for a girl, gets rejected by the girl, and then tells the world that he did not want to be with her anyway because she is a miserable person. 

When it comes to your career, there are 4 key lessons to be learned here:

  1. You cannot always control the actions of the people you work with, but you can always control how you respond.  While James was free to sign with the team of his choice (note: that is the definition of a free agent), he clearly could have handled the situation more professionally.  However, just because he handled it poorly does not mean that Gilbert had to respond in the way that he did.  Gilbert could have taken the high-road, but he chose to be critical and childish instead.
  2. When you throw someone under the bus, YOU are the person who looks bad, even if the other person deserves to be criticized.  As a result of Gilbert’s actions, the majority of the media attention has now shifted to Gilbert, and few people are talking about the way Lebron handled his “decision.”
  3. You open yourself up to criticism when you criticize others.  After seeing Gilbert’s comments, Jesse Jackson posted some highly controversial comments by stating that Gilbert had a “slave master mentality.”
  4. Be very careful what you put in writing or declare publicly.  It would have been understandable for Gilbert to harbor some resentment for James for a period of time or even to share his feelings with his family members or closest friends.  However, he chose to declare his outrageous beliefs and emotions to the world, a decision that has turned into a PR disaster.

While I suppose you can respect Gilbert’s passion for his franchise and for the city of Cleveland, I believe his actions will do him and the franchise MUCH more harm than good.  Had he expressed disappointment with James’ actions in a more professional way, he could have stood up for his fan base, while still taking the high road.  Now, he must deal with comments about being a racist, a dangerous stigma for a white owner in a league (the NBA) that is primarily comprised of African-American players.

How should you respond when disappointed or angered by the actions of someone you work with?  Take the high-road.  You can express your displeasure privately or you can even do it publicly, IF you do it in a manner that is still professional.  You cannot control the actions of others, but you can always control how you respond!

-Pete Leibman

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises

The Power of Lunch (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

July 2, 2010

When I was the #1 Salesperson for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, I sold thousands of tickets each year to individuals, non-profit associations, youth groups, and corporations.  One of the benefits of my job was that I fortunately did not have to mail these tickets out on my own.  Instead, that was the responsibility of the box office, a group of 3-4 employees in the customer service department.

While my salary was directly tied to how much revenue I generated for the company (i.e. how many tickets I sold), the compensation package for the box office was fixed.  In other words, there was a strong financial incentive for me to sell more tickets, but there was no financial incentive for the box office to mail more tickets.  Needless to say, I was not always the most popular person in the box office.  As a result of my sales efforts, a lot of extra work was created for them.

Despite the fact that I always respected my box office colleagues, there were times nearly every day when I would need them to drop what they were doing to help me mail out tickets.  As a result, there was definitely tension developing between myself and the director of the box office at that time, a woman named Sharon. 

One day, I got a bright idea.  I decided that I would take the box office to lunch as a thank you for all of the work they did for me.  My sole objective was to show them that I appreciated their hard work.  However, something else happened that day.  We got to spend 1 hour together outside of the office in a relaxed environment, where we got to know each other, and where they got to see that I was actually a human being!  I probably looked more like a machine during much of the work day, as I systematically moved from task to task and from sale to sale. 

That one lunch (a “cost” to me of $9 per person) completely changed the relationship I had with several of my colleagues, and I remain friends with them to this day, several years after we have all moved on to different companies.

Do you have a colleague at work that you would like to build a stronger relationship with?  Then, ask the person if he/she would like to join you for lunch one day.  For less than $10, you can get a new ally and maybe even a new friend.

-Pete Leibman

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises

Keep Your Cool! (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

June 29, 2010

It was Wednesday, December 6, 2006, and my breaking point was getting closer and closer. 

In less than 48 hours, there would be nearly 3,000 students attending my Sports Careers Day event for the NBA’s Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center, and there was still a lot that needed to be done. 

Nearly half of the attendees for the event had registered after our requested deadline, and it would have been a logistical nightmare for all of those tickets to be picked up on game-day.  As a result, I still had to “fed-ex” 1,500 tickets all over the mid-Atlantic area, and it had to happen within a matter of hours.

In hindsight, the Wizards probably should have had 5 people in charge of this event, but I was doing nearly all of it on my own.  Given my very limited time and my very lengthy to-do list, I was desperate for help.

In fact, I was so desperate that I asked our lead receptionist at that time if she would “fed-ex” 25 batches of tickets for me.

It seemed like a reasonable request to me, but given this woman’s miserable attitude, I should not have been surprised by her response: “That’s not part of my job.”

That was it.  Breaking point surpassed!

It was definitely not the first time she had been rude to me or a customer (I don’t know why she was the receptionist either!), so I responded with a snide remark: “Yes, I know you are really busy answering phones.  Please excuse me for asking for help, especially when you have so much to do.” I then walked back to my cubicle (it was only about 10 feet away from her desk), and I started talking to myself out loud in an attempt to relieve some of my anger.  “I am too $#@&!% nice.  Maybe that’s my problem,” I proclaimed.

The next few minutes were a blood-boiling blur.  All I remember is the receptionist saying, “You better watch how you talk to me, or else you’re gonna have a problem,” to which I responded, “Are you threatening me?  I wasn’t even talking to you!”

After our argument subsided, I stepped outside for 10 minutes to cool down. I then came back to the office and finished the job with the help of an intern, a student who earned MAJOR points with me that day by volunteering to help however she could.

The next morning, our Vice President called me into his office to discuss the situation.  He considered firing the receptionist, but I  insisted that he did not.  We moved on as amicably as possible, and she was actually transferred to another department 1 month later. 

I acknowledged with my boss that I should not have lost my temper, and I thought the issue was forgotten.  However, my next performance review told a different story.

The year before, our Vice President had written in my review that I was the “smartest, most creative, hardest-working sales rep we have had in 15 years.”  This time, my review was complimentary, but it also stated that I needed to “improve attitude toward colleagues.”

While that incident certainly didn’t ruin my reputation, it was definitely not forgotten by senior management, and it did some damage to my image at work. 

So… what do you do when (not if) you are confronted with a situation at work that makes you feel like you are going to explode? 

You should excuse yourself and step outside for a few minutes to cool down and gather your thoughts.  Passion for your job is integral for success, but  keep that passion positive, and never let it turn into anger!  Remain in control of your emotions at all times, no matter how hard that may be.

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

– Career Expert and College Speaker

How to Handle a Conflict with a Colleague (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

June 28, 2010

Conflicts at work are inevitable.  Make sure you handle them the right way!

When I worked in sales for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, we had a computer database shared by the department’s 20-30 sales reps.  We had to enter full contact information for each of our customers and prospects, and we also had to track our discussions with our accounts.  These policies were in place so that management could check our progress at any time and so that we did not have multiple people calling on the same customer.  Nonetheless, the system was far from perfect.

During my first season with the team, I was trying to establish a program with a youth leadership organization.  One day, I looked up my account in our database, and I noticed that one of my colleagues had set up a separate account for the same exact organization.  Her account also indicated that she had recently spoken with one of the group’s leaders. 

Annoyed at what I assumed was a blatant attempt to “steal” my customer, I chose not to approach her professionally and ask what was going on.  Instead, I went directly to my manager for his opinion.

In a questionable management move (note: your boss will make mistakes also!), my manager approached my colleague’s manager about the situation, and her manager then told her about my concerns.  Later that afternoon, she stormed over to my cubicle and started yelling at me, asking why I was telling people that she had “stolen” my account.

After things cooled down, I met with her and the 2 managers, and we amicably resolved the situation.  She had not seen my account when she created hers, and she recognized that she should have not contacted the group.

Do you want to avoid unnecessary arguments at work AND get your colleagues to respect you?  Then, speak with them in-person about any conflicts (rather than going to your manager initially)!  While this will not always be comfortable, it is much more effective than trying to go around someone.  You will also save your boss from dealing with another headache.  Having said that, there will be times when you will need management to intervene.  Just try to resolve the issue with your colleague first!

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

– Career Expert and College Speaker

The #1 Way to Deal With a Difficult Colleague (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

June 17, 2010

No matter where you work, it is virtually guaranteed that you will have to deal with difficult people.  Here is the #1 way to deal with a difficult colleague…

I once worked with a man named “John.”  (Note: that was not his real name.)  No one in the office liked him because of his negative, abrasive attitude, and when I met him for the first time, it was pretty clear how he had developed his reputation.  Not only was he unfriendly, he was actually rude.  He NEVER smiled, and everything about his body language and communication was a turn-off.  As a result, I tried to keep my interactions with him as brief and infrequent as possible.

Let’s fast-forward 2 months from my first interaction with him.  I was sitting in a meeting with John and several of my colleagues, and we were “pitching” an idea for a group from a local company.

 John had played a large role in what we were presenting, and our project manager noted his contribution in front of everyone.  The leader of the group from the other company loved John’s ideas, and he looked right at John and told him in front of the entire room that he was “absolutely brilliant.”

I will ALWAYS remember what I saw next.  It looked as if John went through instantaneous plastic surgery.  Several wrinkles in his face evaporated, the usual redness in his cheeks disappeared, and he flashed a smile (the first one I had ever seen from him) that could have gotten him a modeling gig for Colgate toothpaste. 

John was not a bad person.  He just needed some genuine appreciation!  He had gotten caught up in the vicious cycle of poor confidence leading to a poor attitude leading to poor relationships with other people leading to even poorer confidence.

Do you want to have a more pleasant relationship with a difficult colleague?  Then, find a way to give that person some genuine encouragement.  Chances are you’ll be the only one willing to try that approach, and you may just be the spark he/she needs to start living a more enjoyable, confident life…

-Pete Leibman

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises