Sue’s Top Ten List – How to Deal with Difficult People

We spend most of our life at work so getting on well with those we work with and manage is essential, if we want to get the best out of our days. Managers need to create the conditions in the workplace to enable people to be their best but sometimes, difficult situations arise and some staff may appear to be ‘difficult' to work with. Try the following tips to help you deal with difficult people situations.

1. Respond, don't react. This involves taking sufficient time to determine what the issue(s) may be.

2. Establish the facts of the situation(s) i.e. the core problem, not the symptoms of a problem. For example, check to see that the staff member(s) were not set up for failure in the first place (inadequate job orientation, no training, no supervision, poor communications, etc). Look to see what organisationally and personally (as in you, the manager) may have contributed to the situation.

3. Approach the person(s) directly, in a one-on-one meeting.

4. Discuss the situation with the staff member. Listen carefully, using your eyes and your ears. Clarify points raised, so you get the full picture. Don't assume a thing. Find the facts. Discuss the issues fully.

5. Adopt an assertive communication technique (the issue, the impact of the issue, what might be mutually done to resolve the issue) to keep the focus on mutual problem solving and resolution.

6. Seek agreement on the outcome of the discussions and check that your understanding of what has been agreed to and the staff member's understanding of what has been agreed to, is the same.

7. Document the agreement and give a copy of it to all the person(s) involved.

8. Determine, with the staff member, the ways you will monitor the situation at regular intervals i.e. fortnightly, monthly.

9. Monitor the situation regularly and check what progress has been made. Document the outcome of the monitoring processes.

10. Provide feedback to the person(s) involved. Acknowledge and endorse positive outcomes; identify and discuss issues still needing attention. © April 2011