Welcome to our free Working with Difficult People tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Working with Difficult People course.
A difficult person, particularly one who has a reactive personality, can be challenging to confront. Most people prefer to avoid confrontation and dislike uncomfortable situations. In this lesson, you will learn techniques to handle conflict.
A difficult person, particularly one who has a reactive personality, can be challenging to confront. Most people prefer to avoid confrontation and dislike uncomfortable situations.
Some interesting things about people with difficult personalities and behaviors are they:
There are five things to consider when confronting difficult individuals, and we will explore them now.
The first and foremost consideration should always be safety. Always take into consideration whether or not the other person is:
If there is any doubt, take safety precautions. The following are important steps to take when safety is a concern.
If there are any safety concerns, let somebody else know that the conversation could be heated. If another person knows about the concerns, he or she can keep an eye and ear out during the meeting.
To avoid sharing confidential information, the watchdog can be:
Keep an open door. Open doors minimize the likelihood that a person will demonstrate negative behaviors.
The best protection is prevention; planning the meeting space in advance will avoid:
Finding a place that is both private and yet allows an escape may be problematic. If it is and if safety is a concern, a location off site, such as a restaurant or coffee shop, may be an option.
Conversations transpire differently depending on whether you are confronting:
Supervisors and others with authority may make final decisions, regardless of whether or not the decision is rational or seemingly beneficial.
If the confrontation is with a person holding a supervisory position, his or her decision will need to be respected, at least for the time being.
Most supervisors will:
But difficult supervisors are more likely to state their opinion and not compromise. In those situations a choice will have to be made to:
This can be a difficult decision to make, but ultimately each person has to discern whether a situation is acceptable or not.
If the confrontation is with a subordinate, the dynamics are reversed. In this situation the subordinate must take the position of accepting the supervisory decision. A supervisor has:
It is essential that a supervisor listen to the concerns of the subordinate, even if the subordinate is a difficult person. Even excessive complaints often have some bits of truth in them, and by listening for those bits of truth, a supervisor can make the wisest decisions. Final decisions should always:
Ideally, confrontation with a peer should be cooperative, if not collaborative. However, with a difficult person we can only hope for, but not expect cooperation.
Ideally, there will be equal power between the two parties, but often one person will have greater influential power because of support given through:
Communication between people of equal position can be a source of frustration because there is no obligation by either party to placate the others' desires.
In stalemates, the goal may change from resolution to fact-finding. Pull together enough information to take the issue to a person at a higher level.
The best protection against an emotional outburst by another person is to manage one's own behavior and emotions. Not doing so pulls one into emotional exchanges and gives emotional power to the other person. If the conversation begins to get heated one should:
In a conversation with a difficult person, the goal is to guide the other person to understand a different perspective. Verbal strikes at the other person can repel rather than attract. Unchecked emotions lead to words that are:
An outcome of any meeting, even those with difficult people, should be an improvement in working relationships.
In this exercise, you will respond to the following questions about confronting difficult people.
In this exercise, you will consider the following questions.
For this exercise, keep in mind what you have learned so far and consider your honest answers to these questions.
In the previous lesson we talked about negotiating boundaries. Here we'll address techniques and best practices for negotiation.
There are three parts of negotiation:
When entering into a conversation to talk about sensitive issues it is essential to be prepared. The more you know ahead of time, the better you can handle adversity.
Think ahead about what alternative options are available should negotiations fail. Should an agreement not be reached with the difficult person, know in advance:
If possible, find out in advance what the other person's goal and underlying motivation are. Often, particularly with difficult personalities, what is said on the surface is only a part of what is desired.
Confrontation is more successful when the other person's motivation is understood and can be satisfied. If his or her motivation is:
At the end of the negotiation, there are two essential action steps to be taken:
The written recapitulation will insure all parties are in agreement and will form documentation should it be needed.
The use of each of these in negotiations is deeply influenced by personality and emotion.
Most people fall into one of five negotiating styles, and unless a person is a trained negotiator, these styles relate closely to his or her personality. Understanding one's self and the other party can be a tool in negotiations. The five styles are described here:
Emotions play a powerful role in negotiation. The decision to agree is in part dependent on emotional factors.
Positive emotions often facilitate the agreement process and help maximize gains for both parties. A positive emotional effect:
Negative emotions can trigger intense and even irrational behavior, particularly in people who are predisposed to behave irrationally. Negative emotions can escalate conflict. A Negative emotional affect:
Substance includes the desired goal and any related logistics. Many of these related factors are nonessential, and may be compromised during negotiations.
Depending on the circumstance, these may include the:
To know what can or cannot be compromised, one must understand the needs of both parties and be willing to sacrifice the non-essentials for the sake of the goal.
Negotiations should provide opportunity for both parties to fully present their desired outcomes and to fully understand each other's outcomes. To reach this point:
A successful agreement is not one which achieves great results for one party. A successful agreement:
In a win-lose situation, particularly with a difficult personality, the other party will fulfill their part:
A win-lose agreement should only be considered is when there is no future relationship with the other party.
In this exercise, you will respond to the following questions about negotiation.
In this exercise, you will...
Using what you've learned in this section, figure out which of the styles fits your personality the most and consider the questions. Think about how this affects past performance and how you'll use this information in the future.
In general, children are discouraged from tattling on other children. Parents do not want children to run to them every time another child does something he or she perceives as wrong. The reason for this is to teach the children:
When the situation cannot be worked out between the two children, parents will intervene.
The same rules apply to adults. Adults should try to resolve issues between each other directly. However, there are times when issues just cannot be resolved between two parties.
A third-party mediator is needed when all attempts to work directly with the other party have failed, regardless of whether the barrier to resolution is caused by:
Before confronting a person that you know will be challenging to communicate with, one should research what the company's policies and procedures regarding conflict are, and whether there is a channel for mediation.
A mediator may be:
Formal mediators are trained to handle difficult situations. Mediators are trained to:
Many organizations have no official form of mediation. In organizations that do not provide mediators, a colleague may be able to do the mediation. This person should:
In this exercise, you will respond to the following questions about mediation.
In this exercise, consider the situations you are facing with difficult people at work. What would need to take place that would cause you to seek mediation?
In those rare situations when all resources have been expended and no resolution has been found, formal consequences may need to be applied. Formal consequences take place when control is relinquished and the situation is handed over to another who is in authority.
Applying formal consequences is similar to enforcing one's boundaries, but at a higher, more intense level. Formal consequences use the systems that have been put in place to address unbearable circumstances.
Most organizations have a written policy that addresses the formal process for problems. The policy may direct employees to:
If none of these are available, the first formal consequence becomes the other party's supervisor. From there, the issue is escalated through the supervisory chain of command.
Sometimes personalities are so intense and difficult that none of these steps resolve problems. In those situations, there may be an outside resource, which may include:
Because situations can escalate to these levels, it is wise to document steps that have been taken. Documentation demonstrates to others that you've done everything possible to resolve the situation and you've followed all stated processes. Documentation should include:
Documentation is very time consuming, but it can be the best defense when outside assistance is solicited.
In this exercise, you will respond to the following questions about formal consequences.