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Getting Around Difficult People

We all have those people we work with that are difficult. They may irritate us with the way they talk, how they boss others around, how they stay negative or how they seem to only care about themselves.

Would you like to change that?

Of course we would. No one wants to be inflicted day in and day out with a person that is difficult. But have you ever asked yourself, "What may I be doing that is encouraging or allowing this person to do this?"

I had a CEO recently tell me that he had a person in his company that was controlling, difficult and annoying to work with. He said they had tried everything to turn her around but had no success. When I asked how long this had been going on, he said, "for over 20 years!"

Now that is a clue that something in your company is ALLOWING or even ENCOURAGING this person to continue with this behavior. If it wasn't it would have stopped by now.

Think about it, if there was no reward for this behavior why would you continue to do it? The pain of change is greater right now than the reward of continuing to behave in this way. We all behave in ways that we feel get us the result we want. That is why children throw temper tantrums and especially at prime embarrassing moments.

So if a child goes in a supermarket and throws a fit until Mom or Dad gives her the candy bar, the child learns that if I persist long enough I will get the reward. But if the Mom or Dad simply tells the child their behavior unacceptable and leaves the store promptly, the child learns that was not an effective way to get what I want.

Now this may mean pain for the parent because they may have to get a store person to put their groceries away and come back another time, but it sends the definite message that they will not tolerate the behavior.

But the lesson can't stop there! The parent then needs to tell the child what they did that was unacceptable, help the child with better ways to deal with their frustration and then explain what will happen in the future if this happens again.

This reinforces that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Okay so let's fast forward in to work. How many times have you stood firm on what you will and won't accept from this difficult person? What do you do that may be allowing this person to continue or even worse, be rewarded for their poor behavior?

For example, in most companies we have worked with they start to isolate the difficult person. They try to have them attend as few meetings as possible, stop asking them to participate in committees and minimize their work contact. Well, since that person is wanting to do things in their way on their time schedule, you just rewarded their behavior. They got left alone which is exactly what they wanted in the first place.

Take Action: Look at behavior in your area that you would like to see changed. Ask, what am I or my company doing that is allowing or encouraging this behavior? Then ask, what do I need to change in how I interact or handle this so it stops?

For some companies, this has meant to stop making exceptions for people, even if they are good performers but are disruptors to the corporate culture. You are better off without them then to have their difficult attitude rub off on others!


As the leading Outcome Strategist, Anne Warfield shows people how to say the right thing at the right time every time.  The revolutionary Outcome Focus® Approach shows how to build a candid corporate culture of communication that allows you to lead, present and negotiate transformationally rather than transactionally. When applying Outcome Thinking® our client’s results include sales cycles reducing by 75%, turnover reducing by 30%, silos evaporating, and a 25% savings of time by executives.  Find out how you can maximize your corporate culture for greater productivity and results!  Contact us at 888-imp-9421, visit  www.impressionmanagement.com,  or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .