How to Deal with Difficult EmployeesManagers achieve results through the people they manage. The results that a manager achieves are therefore a reflection of their effectiveness in managing people. As a management trainer, I am often asked "how can I deal with difficult people?" My response is to challenge the assumptions contained within the question and to address a number of misconceptions.
Misconception 1: Managers do not "deal" with people
The use of terms such as "deal" are quite revealing about the psychology of the person asking the question. To deal is to contract, to reach an arrangement, to trade or to undertake a transaction. Whilst all relationships are indeed some form of contract in which transactions take place, trade-offs are made and arrangements are agreed; if we perceive a relationship in such a way, it results in a "what is in it for me mentality?" Managers deal with problems, they deal with issues and challenges, but they do not "deal" with people.
Misconception 2: Difficult employees
The term "difficult employee" is often used in the context of an underperforming team member or an individual who is behaving in a way that is counterproductive. In my experience, it is rare for people to deliberately perform poorly at work; that is not their motivation.
Poor performance is usually the consequence of the absence of some knowledge, skills or understanding. So called "difficult employees" or "difficult people" have simply learned a set of behaviours that they believe helps to protect them in certain situations. Why is it that Janagi is a pleasant and helpful person when socialising with friends, yet aggressive and disruptive at work? How can this be the same person?
The answer is that in one context she knows and understands what to do and what is expected of her. In the other context, she is uncertain and lacks the understanding, knowledge or skills and uses certain behaviours to cover up these deficiencies.
Misconception 3: Managers manage employees
When managers perceive people as "employees", "human resources" or worse still "problems" rather than as people and individuals, the nature of the relationship focuses on the transactional, the contractual or the "trade-offs". Transactions cannot be inspired; contracts cannot be motivated, and "trade-offs" cannot be trained and developed.
Managers need to adopt a people paradigm and not a "dealer" paradigm.
Misconception 4: Asking "how?"
"How" is the wrong question to ask. A better question would be to ask "why?". Why are they adopting the specific behaviours that are causing the difficulties?" Before it is possible to influence their choice of behaviour, it is first necessary to understand why they have adopted it in the first place. Only once the root cause has been understood, can we begin to explore the "how" question.
People will have learned over time that certain behaviours help them to achieve their goals. If their goal is to avoid having their lack of knowledge or understanding exposed, they may well have learned to be aggressive, evasive or confrontational which serves as a distraction technique. Rather than admit to a weakness or to a fault, people often use a set of defensive behaviours: some might be a form of aggression such as sarcasm, or some form of withdrawal such as indifference or apathy.
When "dealing with problem people", managers need to switch their focus to influencing behaviours. With few exceptions, managers are looking for the person to either exhibit less of certain behaviours (e.g. aggression, sarcasm or indifference) or more of others (cooperation, constructive dialogue, or enthusiasm). Managers need to learn to use coaching, delegation and feedback to help people to develop and use appropriate behaviours.
Programmes such as the Chartered Management Institute"s Awards and Certificates in First Line Management and Management and Leadership provide an ideal framework for managers to learn to manage people. The flexible, modular programmes provide cost-effective, practical tools and techniques for managers to develop their skills and increase their performance. Available in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia through RTC Consulting, managers can attend First Line Management Qualification; Management & Leadership Qualification.
Unlike most other programmes, RTC Consulting students can become Affiliate members of one of the world"s leading professional institutes for management, joining over 80,000 likeminded managers and have access to a huge online learning resource.
For further information about CMI qualifications that are available from RTC Consulting please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org