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How to Deal with Difficult People at Work




The efficient organizational performance is dependent on various factors, both internal and external, which influence the functioning of organizations, internal atmosphere, organizational culture and relationships between people working within organizations. In such a context, the presence of difficult people within an organization can be a serious challenge to the stability of interpersonal relationships within an organization because they can undermine the normal relationships between people. The latter naturally increases the risk of internal conflicts which affect negatively the organizational performance. Therefore, it is obvious that difficult people are a direct threat not only to interpersonal relations within an organization but also to the organizational performance at large. It proves beyond a doubt that it is one of the major responsibilities of manager to develop efficient strategies and management styles which help to integrate difficult people in the organizational culture and minimize the risk of conflicts within the organization. In this respect, managers need to be able to identify difficult people, reveal major problems associated with their presence within the organization and find optimal solutions, which can prevent conflicts between employees as well as between employees and managers.

On analyzing the problem of difficult people within an organization, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that such people are present practically in all organizations. In other words, managers inevitably encounter the problem of dealing with difficult people regardless of the organization they work at. In such a way, managers should come prepared to develop efficient strategy that can help them cope with problems which naturally arise when they deal with difficult people. In this respect, it is necessary to understand that difficult people affect not only the work of managers and their direct relationships with difficult people. In fact, they affect the entire organization and relationships of all employees working within an organization who interact and communicate with difficult people.

Consequently, the problem of difficult people is inevitable and affects the entire organization. On realizing this fact, managers need to understand potential problems which can be provoked by difficult. Communication gaps, interpersonal conflicts, opposition to the formal leader within the organization are problems to mention a few. The major problems provoked by difficult people or by their presence within the organization define strategies and management styles which can help managers to cope with these problems. Basically, the development of efficient strategies of dealing with difficult people is grounded on the prevention of the negative impact of difficult people on the personnel of the organization and, thus, on the organizational performance at large.

In such a situation, the identification of difficult people within an organization is particularly important because it is possible to apply an individual approach to each difficult person to minimize his or her negative impact on other employees and organizational performance at large. For instance, it is possible to decrease interpersonal contacts of a difficult person with the rest of the personnel. The identification of difficult people may be accompanied by certain challenges since the notion of difficult people mainly refers to the psychological domain rather than to organizational functioning. In other words, difficult people are people who are difficult to work and cooperate with, who can cause or provoke conflicts, tension in interpersonal relations and other problems (Dessler, 2004). Consequently, to identify difficult people, it is possible to apply psychological tests and methods of analysis of employees. For instance, it is possible to identify outcasts or employees, who have problems in relationships with other people within the organization by means of psychological tests. Naturally, observation is also helpful in identification of difficult people.

However, to identify difficult people does not necessarily mean to solve problems they can cause. In this respect, it is important to remember that one of the major functions of managers is the development of positive interpersonal relationships and the formation of the positive organizational culture. Interpersonal relationships can influence consistently the effectiveness of work and well-being of employees as well as their psychological state. However, often the problem of the formation of positive interpersonal relationships arises, especially when there are some difficult people within an organization, who ignore interests and needs of other employees. In fact, it is possible to find such difficult people practically in any organization. Many employs believe the communication and mutual work with these people are impossible, but, in actuality, it is necessary to learn how to deal with difficult people. If a person knows how to behave and communicate with difficult people he/she will hardly have any serious difficulties with these people, though it does not mean that this person will be able to establish friendly relationships with difficult people. However, many people do not know how to deal with difficult people. In this respect, it is possible to refer to D.R. McKay’s article “The Five Difficult People You Meet at Work and How to Get along with Them” and to J. Horsch’s article “How to Work with Difficult People at Work”.

In fact, the two aforementioned articles suggest quite different approaches to the problem of relationships with difficult people. D. R. McKay studies different types of difficult people and develops recommendations concerning each type, taking into consideration specific traits of character of each type. To put it more precisely the author distinguishes the chatterbox as one of the types of difficult people. Dealing with a chatterbox, McKay recommends avoiding insulting the co-worker and, instead of avoiding the communication with person pointblank, that is not always possible, the author recommends to put the blame on managers and explain the co-worker that managers have problems with concentration while listening to her interesting stories. In addition, it is possible to limit the communication with this person and to have a lunch once a week for instance.

Another type of difficult people is a gossiper, who is always gossiping and discussing various stories related to other people. The author recommends changing the communication style with this person and when he/she start gossiping it is necessary to explain this person that managers are not interested in discussing other’s people life behind their back. The same advice the author gives in relation to complainers. To put it more precisely, he simply recommends changing the subject of the conversation in order to avoid listening complaints. Also, there may be delegators who attempt to delegate their jobs and duties to managers. In such a situation, it is necessary to explain them that managers have their own job to do and duties to fulfill. Finally, there are credit gabbers who are always borrowing money. In relation to this people, it is necessary to refuse to help them out when they ask for help constantly.

Alternatively, J. Horsch recommends changing managers’ attitude to work and difficult people. The author argues that self-perception is very important and the way we perceive other people may be even more important. This is why it is necessary to accept difficult people as they are and develop assertiveness in managers’ forces that will help to avoid conflicts with difficult people. However, such a strategy of acceptance of difficult people has a number of flaws which can decrease its efficiency consistently. First of all, it is not always possible to accept difficult people as they are. At any rate, it is not all employees working within the organization who are able to accept such people. in this respect, managers, due to their educational level, professional qualities and characteristics can be more flexible because they can have different strategies and management styles which they apply in the course of their work. In contrast, employees do not have strategies of efficient communication and work together with difficult people. Therefore, they cannot adapt strategies that help them to maintain normal relationships with difficult people. Moreover, often employees are unwilling to accept difficult people because of personal conflicts and dislike. In such a situation, managers have to help employees to establish positive relationships with difficult people, but it is difficult and often useless to demand employees accept difficult people as they are. Instead, other strategies have to be used.

At the same time, difficult people can provoke internal conflicts because they can challenge the formal leadership of managers. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that difficult people are not always people that provoke conflicts with their colleagues but they can be informal leaders within the organization which may have the informal authority over employees and, thus, challenge the position of managers who have the formal authority. In actuality, difficult people may differ from the overwhelming majority of the personnel because they do not accept changes developed by managers, while being informal leaders within the organization, they can raise the opposition to changes and innovations introduced within the organization. The problem is that managers need to overcome the resistance of the personnel to change because of the informal leaders who are difficult people unwilling to accept change because of different reasons, including their personal ambitions, beliefs, and other reasons.

In order to minimize the negative impact of difficult people who are informal leaders within the organization, managers can apply all possible means. In this respect, it is possible to attempt to compete with informal leaders but a more efficient strategy is to undermine the authority of informal leaders within the organization. At this point, it is particularly important to provide employees with a positive feedback to ensure their support of the formal leader, who should demonstrate that his or her leadership is worth to follow, while the informal leader leads employees to a dead-end. In this regard, it is possible to use all ethically just means, including firing informal leaders to stabilize the situation within the organization.

As for other difficult people, who do not have leadership qualities, it is possible to apply less radical but efficient strategies and approaches. To put it more precisely, managers should focus on the elaboration of the code of conduct, which defines clearly norms of behavior, moral and ethical principles of the organization. Employees should follow these rules and norms and, in such a way, managers can improve the ambiance within the organization and stimulate the formation of a positive organizational culture. The introduction of principles of tolerance and respect of rights, liberties and personal beliefs can contribute to the minimization of conflicts provoked by difficult people. In addition, employees should be trained to avoid conflicts and develop strategies, which can help them to meet this goal. In this respect, it is possible to organize special courses which can help employees to learn efficient methods of communication and strategies of conflict avoidance and crisis management.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned it is possible to conclude that managers can use various strategies and approaches to difficult people, but, above all, it is necessary to develop flexible communication style in order to be able to maintain normal relationships with all people at work. Otherwise, a manager faces a risk of becoming a difficult person for them. At the same time, it is important to stress the fact that the problem of difficult people is extensive problem which affects the functioning of the entire organization and all people working within the organization because they cannot avoid the communication and interaction with difficult people. Therefore, managers need to develop efficient strategies and management styles which can help them prevent conflicts and problems within the organization. In this regard, the identification of difficult people is very important, but what is more important is the development of a positive organizational culture which sets standards all employees should meet that naturally minimizes the risk of conflicts within the organization.

References:

Dessler, G. (2004). Management: Principles and practices for tomorrows’ leaders (3rd ed.). New Jersey: Upper Saddle River.
Horsch’s J. (2008). How to Work with Difficult People at Work. Retrieved October 11, 2008 from http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Work-With-Difficult-People-at-Work&id=1531370
McKay, D.R. (2008). The Five Difficult People You Meet at Work and How to Get along with Them. Retrieved October 11, 2008 from http://careerplanning.about.com/od/bosscoworkers/a/difficultpeople.htm
Schein, E. H. (1999). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schmitt, B. and Simonson, A. (1997). In Marketing Aesthetics: The strategic management of brands, identity, and image, New York: The Free Press.



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