May 16th, 2017

3 essential tips for managing difficult people

In management, we all have to deal with difficult people. Some people are quite happy to help themselves, help us, and help others. Others seem to be hellbent on making life as difficult as possible for all involved. As a manager, you don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing who you manage and who you leave to fend for themselves. It’s your responsibility to effectively manage all of your employees, even the difficult ones. Here are three essential tips for managing difficult people.

1. Accept the complexities of management

First things first; don’t fight the madness. While some people genuinely don’t realise how difficult they are being, others are fully aware of it and either don’t care, or don’t know how to be any different. Trying to deny that certain people are more difficult to deal with is a waste of your valuable time and mental bandwidth. The sooner you accept the fact that you have a troublesome person to contend with, the swifter and more effective you will be at finding a good solution.

Take a moment to recognise that they are frustrating and cause difficult situations to arise. Acknowledge that part of your role as a manager, and the reason your salary is higher than your subordinates, is that it is part of your responsibility to tackle difficult issues like this one.

Make sure you approach delicate employees, troublesome teammates, and their respective issues in the most positive manner possible. Think of it as an intriguing challenge, a puzzle that needs solving. Never try to bulldoze your way through the conflict, or avoid it. You want to tackle the issue with an even and direct hand. Your instincts may tell you to avoid conflict, however, the most effective managers are neither avoiders, nor bulldozers of conflict; they don’t look the other way, or pull rank.

Always remember that you will need to keep working with these people once the immediate problem has been resolved. Always be as constructive as possible, looking for the best solution rather than simply forcing people to do things your way.

2. See it their way

Leading on from this, it’s important to see things their way as well as your own. This isn’t as simple as it sounds; however, there are usually reasons people are behaving in a particular way, especially if that way is awkward. Have they always been this difficult? Are there new situations or external forces influencing their behaviour? Are you doing anything to inadvertently trigger their troublesome attitude, such as micromanaging, criticising, overburdening, or withholding praise, bonuses, and/or promotion?

Try to take the most holistic view of the situation possible. It will help you to gain insight into the problem and the reasons motivating the behaviour of all the players. This will ensure you find a plan that constructively solves all issues, and not simply the issue of someone not doing as you say.

3. Ask for help when needed

This is easily done, but often avoided, due to the perception that managers should be capable of dealing with everything. You also have to take into account your personal pride, which may often feel bruised when you try to ask for help.

The reality is, when you work in a business, be it large or small, help is always at hand. It’s important to gain the perspectives of other like-minded individuals, peers, and employees. Gaining perspectives from a range of people in your organisation, and impartial outside observers, can greatly improve your managerial skills. In addition, the ability to ask for additional help when you need it is vital. Otherwise you will end up struggling and failing to complete everything to the standard you are capable of achieving, which is no help to anybody.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather of sensible judgement. For more information on how Goodwille can help you look after your employees, or if you have any other employment-related questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are experts on UK employment law and are happy to help!