Dealing with Difficult Employees

  1. A common mistake made by managers is to ignore how a difficult person affects others. A difficult person might get along fine with the box, but not fine with co-workers or customers.
  2. Think in terms of difficult behaviors, not difficult people. When you catch yourself labeling people as difficult, focus on the present, identify the specific things they are doing that are difficult, and go from there. Get the behavior-focus mind-set.
  3. Some people will respond positively to the things that give them a sense of control. You might try giving difficult people more responsibility, or soliciting their input more often to see whether that has a positive effect.
  4. The garden-variety difficult person is someone whose behavior you consider difficult, but not in ways that are intentionally harmful, although the results may be quite destructive.
  5. Managers often expect instant results when dealing with difficult people. That's bad. Think of stopping difficult behavior as a long-term thing that's going to have an effect over time (often months). No technique is going to create instant results.
  6. Mediation is a process where a third party, the mediator, tries to facilitate a process where the disputing parties can solve their problems in a nonadversarial, noncoercive way.
  7. The venomous difficult person behaves in inappropriate or destructive ways in an intentional way. There is intent to damage others, which is absent with the garden-variety difficult employees.
  8. Progressive discipline is a process wherein an employee is notified of inappropriate behavior and where the sanctions and warning become firmer and more severe. For example, a first warning may have no immediate consequences. If the person doesn't change, then the next warning may involve the possibility of a short suspension.
  9. The nutso boss is a person who has certain characteristics and/or personal issues that cause him or her to treat other people in destructive, unpleasant ways. Nutso bosses don't usually change. That's because nutso bosses aren't very nice people, or hold values and beliefs that are hard to change.
  10. If you have a difficult boss and need to decide what to do, your first step is to determine what you are prepared to lose and what you can afford to lose.
  11. Identifying what you can live with and what you are willing to sacrifice allows you to negotiate from a position of strength and sureness.
  12. The unreasonably demanding boss is someone who, through cluelessness or inefficiency, makes impossible demands to get work done in an unrealistic time frame.
  13. If you've been using the term "personality conflict" to describe a difficult person, stop now. by using this label, you give up control and give up on the situation. You don't have difficulties with someone because of their personality; you have problems with someone because of his or her behavior and your reactions.
  14. Even with conflict that has gone down the bad path, you'd be amazed at how the situation can still be turned around if you keep focused on the issues, and don't get pulled into using any difficult tactics.
  15. Interactivity refers to the degrees to which two people can interact in real time. A highly interactive process allows both parties to communicate information to each other at the same time, as in a face-to-face situation. A less-interactive process only allows communication in sequence, one at a time. That's the case with e-mail.
  16. Asking the boss for suggestions for improvement isn't just a good way to find out how you're perceived. It's a great way to show your willingness to learn and contribute. Bosses just eat this stuff up.

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