Dealing with difficult people

Dealing with difficult people
July 3, 2018 Linda Murray

As a leader, you are tasked with inspiring others to work together and put forth their best efforts. This is a challenging task because not all of us share the same goals and aspirations. We each have our own motivations, perceptions and preferences and these differences can bring us into conflict with others.

In fact, a certain degree of conflict is inevitable when people come together for any common purpose. This is especially true in the work environment and in professional contexts.

Why is it so hard to get along with some people?

While it’s true that some people seem to thrive on conflict, most of us aren’t “hard-wired,” to be disagreeable. Very few people go out of their way to push one

Stress affects our relationships

We all want to perform well, so we interact in an open and cooperative manner. It’s important to remember, however, that even the most friendly and likeable members of your team can become uncooperative when they are dealing with the pressure of difficult circumstances. It’s normal to have a bad day every now and then.

Push back is normal when there’s a legitimate concern

Team members can also become disagreeable, or even combative when they have legitimate concerns affecting their morale at work. For example, even the most enthusiastic team members can lose faith if they suddenly have little say in how their work is to be performed, or if they don’t have enough training or support to be able to perform their roles well.

No matter how disagreeable someone might be, you still need to lead!

Regardless of why someone is being difficult, your performance and that of your team is still your responsibility as the leader. Goals still need to be reached and deadlines met. It’s up to you to re-establish open, honest and effective communication with your team and get everyone focused and working together again.

The following tips can help you improve your interactions with difficult people.

Seek to empathise rather than judge

Many of the problematic interactions that take place between team members and their leadership is because of the way people communicate. When dealing with someone who is difficult to work with, it’s important to try to look at the situation from their perspective. Ask questions to try to learn what is motivating them to act this way.

Once you have a handle on why the person is being uncooperative, restate the issue as you understand it and ask them to clarify any part that you may have wrong. This shows you are open to understanding things from their perspective, rather than trying to “win” an argument. You want to break down that barrier with open communication and let them know that you are not judging them and want to work with them, rather than against them, to find a resolution that benefits everyone.

A little bit of empathy can go a long way in these situations.

Act quickly to reduce stress levels on your team

No matter how well your team members get along, be aware of the signs of stress and be proactive about reducing the pressure on your team.

Openly praise your team for their hard work and efforts, especially when your team has been working on a complicated task or is facing some sort of pressure. Encourage your team members to maintain a healthy work/life balance and model that behaviour for them by leaving the office on time. Encourage your team to leave their work at the office when they leave for the day so they can have a break from the pressure and unwind.

Encourage connection and morale

Encourage your team to talk to one another to create better understanding between individuals and reduce the chance of misunderstandings and other conflicts. Look for ways to develop mutual trust and respect through team building activities. For example, you might take your team out to lunch, or, volunteer as a group at a local non-profit to help others. You’ll break everyone out of their normal routines and they’ll see themselves and one another, in a new light.  Showing your team members that you value them as individuals and you care about them improves morale and reduces the chance of conflict.

Is your team on a mission filled with conflict, with everyone pulling in a different direction? It’s tough to know where to start to overcome the difficulties. Talking with your executive coach can help you define the issues and develop a strategy to deal with them. If you’d like some help, get in touch today. We would love to help you overcome these leadership challenges and help you create a conflict-free team.

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