Posts Tagged ‘difficult people’
Even if you don’t want to admit it, your team needs training for dealing with difficult people. Conflicts can arise among team members who don’t see eye to eye or who have differing communication styles. Angry customers can lash out at your people. Frustrated vendors can send accusatory emails. In all of those situations, your team would benefit from guidance and training for dealing with the difficult person.
Sure, there are some people who are naturally good at dealing with conflict, but most people aren’t. They resort to ineffective conflict management techniques, such as giving the silent treatment, allowing their anger to fester, yelling at the other person or talking behind his or her back. Not only are those responses ineffective for resolving conflicts, but they’re also likely to contribute to lowered morale and reduced productivity.
Detox Your Workplace! provides advice and tips for dealing with difficult people in various situations. The following excerpt explains how employees should respond if a conflict turns hostile.
A person confronts you, yelling and gesturing wildly. Your challenge: Hear the person out—without losing your temper. To resolve the problem and avoid a repeat, follow this advice:
- Do not interrupt. If you break into the tirade, you tell the speaker that you are not really listening. You create the impression that you have prejudged the situation and that you are not interested in the other person’s side.
- Stay calm. Train yourself to deal with aggressive people at work in a calm manner. Your goal should be to express yourself assertively, with no hint of aggravation. Don’t tell the other person to “Calm down.”
- Keep your imagination in check. Don’t escalate the situation in your mind. A person who is upset about a current situation does not necessarily plan to stay angry forever.
- Show your willingness. An angry person may feel that you just don’t understand the situation and why it matters. When you have a chance to speak, say “I want to understand.” Then paraphrase what you heard, using your own words, and ask the person if you perceive the situation accurately. Once you are satisfied that you understand fully, you can move toward resolution.
- Use the person’s name. When a conversation takes a hostile turn, call the aggressor by his or her first name. That will draw the person’s attention. Then express your preference for how the conversation should proceed. Example: “Alice, I will listen to you and work to fix the problem, but only if you lower your voice.”
—Adapted from Detox Your Workplace!, www.practicalbusinesstraining.com.
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/mccord.]
If you are faced with a colleague who always seems to know everything that’s going on in your life, you might want to be more discreet at work. That means keeping personal calls to a minimum or using a conference room to handle personal business. You may also want to let the resident snoop know that you don’t appreciate the lack of privacy by addressing the situation directly. Example: “We work in close proximity, and we’ll occasionally hear each other’s personal business. I hope we’re both professional enough to keep that information to ourselves.”
If your nosy neighbor has truly crossed the line, talk to your manager about the situation. The organization may be able to make adjustments in the office layout to provide you with more privacy.
— Adapted from “Handling Difficult Co-Workers,” www.business-marketing.com.
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/striatic.]
I recently came across the article “The Top Five RUDE Things Professionals Do” written by Kevin Graham, managing director of Empowered Sales Training. The two behaviors that resonated with me the most were:
- Taking tight turns, referring to those individuals who round corners so tightly, that they slam into unsuspecting co-workers.
- Not drying hands, referring to people who wash their hands and leave a wet handprint on the door handle for fellow co-workers to grab.
I couldn’t help but chuckle. Plenty of times I’ve been crushed in the hallway by an eager co-worker who too quickly bolted around a corner. And I now open public bathroom doors with a paper towel to avoid touching any unknown wetness that could be lurking.
Those are two seemingly innocent actions that have the power to infuriate. Most often it’s a small oversight or lack of courtesy that turns into a full-blown conflict. Here are some similar behaviors I’ve encountered over the years:
- Leaving the coffee pot empty. I rush to refuel on a hot cup of joe, only to find the coffee pot bone dry. I have to start a new batch and then wait for it to brew. It’s just common courtesy: If you take the last of something, refill it. Whether that is coffee, printer paper or ink, or TP in the bathroom. Either refill it or notify someone who is responsible for that task to do so.
- Dousing yourself, workspace, hall or bathroom in fragrance. You may covet that new spring fragrance, but as it wafts through the building and embeds itself in my clothing and nostrils, I sneeze and sneeze and sneeze and … sneeze. Think of others and save the strong perfumes and colognes for after-work activities.
- Creeping. Once I worked in a cubicle. It was spacious and the walls were tall and well-insulated. The set up, however, forced me to work with my back to the opening. The “creeper” at that job would enter my workspace ninja-style and loudly ask “Whatcha doing?” scaring the you-know-what out of me—and sometimes making me spill that precious, just-brewed coffee. Always knock and invite yourself to enter a workspace, even if it is a cubicle. Otherwise, you just seem like you are trying to scare someone or catch the person doing something he or she shouldn’t be doing.
- Laughing—loudly. You may be conversing with [insert funniest comedian of your generation], but it never justifies that overbearing cackling sound some people are prone to make. It’s distracting to others and more often than not it comes across as insincere. A soft, genuine giggle goes much further than an over-the-top laugh.
Employees may not be willing to confront their co-worker’s bad behaviors, so as the manager, it is up to you to establish a courteous workplace. Follow these tips from the Essentials of Effective Teamwork training kit:
- Clarify policies. Establish policies for common courtesy and work etiquette, explain them to your team members and hold them accountable for following the rules. It’s possible that what seems obvious to you is not as obvious to a team member. Example: One team member might leave a mess in the communal microwave, thinking that it is the janitor’s job to clean it up.
- Model good etiquette. Lead the way by demonstrating courteous behavior to your team. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be saying “please” and “thank you,” cleaning up after yourself and avoiding irritating behaviors too.
- Establish rules for addressing a lapse in courteousness. People are not to approach each other in anger or use sarcasm or condescension when a co-worker’s lack of courtesy affects them. Instead, they are to approach the person calmly and ask them to refrain from the behavior. In addition, explain that it is not acceptable to lash out at colleagues when they confront rude behavior.
- Be a little nicer. Challenge your team members to do five nice things each day that deliver no immediate payoff. After all, it’s those small kindnesses—smiling, saying “Thank you,” holding the door for a colleague, doing simple favors—that make work life that much more enjoyable.
What are your best tips for maintaining a courteous workplace?
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/peregrinari.]
It’s one thing to be proud of your successes and promotions; it’s quite another to allow that pride to morph into arrogance. Reflect on your attitudes and actions, and identify whether the following statements are True or False:
- I behave toward my subordinates very differently than I do toward my superiors.
- If forced to choose, I’d rather make myself look good than do what’s best for my team or organization.
- I’ve taken credit for another person’s work.
- It bothers me when others are praised and I’m not.
- I sometimes belittle others’ ideas to make my subordinates look bad in meetings.
- I have no interest in mentoring or coaching my subordinates.
- Constructive feedback—from subordinates or superiors—makes me angry.
- I expect my subordinates to remember their “place.”
If you answered True to any of those statements, you might be an arrogant boss. Aside from irritating your team, arrogance can be detrimental to your organization. Here’s why:
- Arrogant bosses drive away talent. When employees feel devalued or manipulated, they start looking for other options. If you’re lucky they’ll transfer to another department, but more likely they’ll join your competition.
- Your reputation will spread. Whether they stay or leave, employees will talk about their frustrations, which will make qualified job candidates less likely to accept an offer with your organization.
- People will stop sharing ideas. Once they realize that they’re not going to receive credit for them (or that they’ll take full blame if things don’t go swimmingly), your team members will stop sharing their good ideas. Creativity and innovation will stagnate.
- Lowered morale decreases productivity. People who hate their bosses aren’t the best workers. They’re not motivated to go above and beyond expectations, and they take more sick days.
What arrogant behaviors bother you most?
You can put off having difficult conversations with employees about negative behavior and poor performance, but you can’t avoid those discussions forever. By delaying the inevitable, you risk the chance of escalating your dread into chronic anxiety. Perhaps you’re concerned about saying the wrong things and hurting someone’s feelings. You may be worrying yourself sick over possibly making the situation worse. In truth, the energy you waste fretting about outcomes would be better spent on more constructive efforts.
More than likely the problem won’t go away by itself, so now is the time to focus on gathering the courage to proceed. Take a few moments to analyze your intentions and formulate a plan, then continue the process with confidence.
- Prepare. Get ready to handle the situation in a calm, centered manner. Ask yourself these questions: Why am I going to have this conversation? What do I hope to achieve? What am I feeling about the situation and this employee? Is this person aware of the problem? What are the employee’s intentions, needs and fears? How has each of us contributed to the problem?
- Begin the one-on-one with inquiry. Ease into the difficult conversation by saying something like “I want to discuss something that will help us both work together more effectively.” Reveal the topic of the meeting with concise words that convey caring, concern and respect. Ask questions to indicate your interest in learning the employee’s point of view. Make sure to acknowledge that you hear and understand what the employee is saying.
- Work together to solve the problem. Clarify your position on the subject without minimizing what you have just heard from the employee. Brainstorm together by asking the employee for solutions and then building upon those ideas. End the difficult conversation by defining concrete performance goals, deadlines and consequences. Most important, keep the discussion dignified so the employee walks away with self-esteem intact.
What difficult conversation have you been putting off and how do you plan on handling the situation now?