How to lead difficult people even if you’re running out of patience

How to lead difficult people even if you’re running out of patience
August 11, 2019 Linda Murray

Some people are hard work. When you have a difficult person to lead, it affects the morale and productivity of the entire team.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone got along and teams always ran smoothly? Well, it doesn’t always go that way and occasionally you have a team member who seems to rub you up the wrong way. He or she knows how to push your buttons or rock the team boat to upset everyone. It might be deliberate but it’s also possible they don’t realise the effect they are having on you or your team.

What do you do? You must do something, or the team will fall apart, and your productivity will be destroyed.  The only thing you can do is to meet with the difficult person and talk it through.

Before you stress at that suggestion, keep reading. I have some good advice for you, based on my own experience.

Arrange a meeting time and place.

Choose somewhere you’ll both feel comfortable and which is private and convenient for both of you to get to. Sometimes a meeting room might be appropriate but other times a quiet chat over coffee could be better. Trust your instinct on this. Gather any reports or supporting material you might need to help you present your position clearly. This will also help you feel more confident and prepared for anything that might come up.

Focus on the actions, not the person.

You’re not at this meeting to be critical or place blame. You’re looking for a solution. You don’t know what is going on in the person’s life or mind so try not to judge. The more conversational you can keep it, the more you will learn. Difficult people aren’t usually difficult by choice. They are stressed or unhappy. You are here to find out what is causing this team member to be difficult. And remember, it might come as a shock to them to learn of the impact they are having. When you focus on actions, it gives you both somewhere to start making changes.

Manage your emotions.

When you deal with a difficult person, you’re likely to be feeling angry or apprehensive. That’s normal, especially if they react to your comments with anger. Your brain is ready with its inbuilt flight or fight response to protect you however it can. Knowing this will happen gives you time to prepare yourself and take a deep breath when you need to. Research shows that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions so they can stay in control of themselves when they need to. If you lose control of yourself, you lose control of the situation. It’s as simple as that.

Acknowledge your role in the situation.

The situation may not be one-sided so be prepared to understand and accept responsibility for anything you may have done. Ask how you could do things differently. Many great ideas are born out of difficult conversations.

Be ready to take action.

There are a few options here.

  • First, be ready to take a break if you feel you’re losing control.
  • You might also need to stop the meeting if either person is getting angry. A break between meetings gives you both time to reflect on what has been said and come to terms with it.
  • Ideally, you will come up with a plan of action which you both agree to. Whether it’s changed behaviors, more training, a transfer or even time off work to deal with a problem, it should be documented and agreed to. 

Here are my final words of advice…

Give yourself a break. No matter how the meeting goes, be proud that you’ve tackled the situation head-on. Dealing with difficult people is not easy. Acknowledge this and give yourself a break. Chat to your mentor to debrief or go for a walk to release the stress. Look after yourself.

Would you like some help in dealing with a difficult person? Let’s talk it through and develop your strategies and boost your leadership skills for the situation.



Comments (0)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.