Nobody’s perfect. That seems like a pretty simple and well-accepted notion. However, when dealing with people at work, you need (or at least want) them to do the right things. The fact that others don’t always do what they “should” can leave you feeling surprised and frustrated.

What are some fundamentals for dealing with less-than-perfect human beings (AKA, everyone)?

Acknowledge each person’s humanity. Even the boss will have flaws, but often we find these to be unforgivable. Get over it. “God knows I’ve got so many frailties myself, I ought to be able to understand and forgive them in others. But I don’t.” (Ava Gardner)

Don’t stop doing your job. You send the weekly report out for review and key stakeholders don’t look at it. Communicate the consequences of that choice; then realign on expectations and keep sending the report. Just because some aren’t holding up their end of the deal doesn’t mean you are off the hook.

Pay attention to your expectations. Don’t expect others to know what you think or react as you would. Your expectations of others must be realistic, fair and transparent. You may want to gather your team to engage in a dialogue about mutual expectations. It could be that there are justifications for their choices you hadn’t considered.

Figure out what’s really important. Instead of nit-picking about every single thing the person does wrong, target the behavior that impedes necessary results. Along with discussing the impact, share what needs to start happening and what needs to stop.

Speak up. Seething inwardly won’t help, and people will eventually notice. When the issue is important, share your feedback directly with the person, in the spirit of care for the greater good. Stay focused on behaviors without making judgments.

While you should not expect perfection, don’t give up on high standards. Karen O’Hara, president of HR to Go, wrote “Thirty-five Great Expectations to Have of your Coworkers.” One expectation: “Accept criticism in stride.” Likely, your imperfections are  not going unnoticed as well, so be ready to be on the receiving end. Listen and learn when someone cares enough to point out your flaws.


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