All of us know people who are difficult to work with and our first thought may revolve around avoiding them. To get a clearer idea of certain people who can be difficult to work with, below are a few characteristics that they may posses:
Every workplace has some people like this. As supervisors, we might feel it is easier to just leave such people alone and avoid them as far as possible. But if we do NOT respond appropriately, the problem behaviour could get exaggerated. Inadequate response to such behaviours can also leave the rest of the team demotivated and resentful because the supervisor is not doing anything to protect their best interests. Besides, difficult people tend to have a negative influence on others. So as a concerned supervisor, it is part of your responsibility to do something - but what can you do?
Your company may have specific guidelines for you to follow, but here are some general strategies that apply in most situations.
Talk To Others
Are others facing the same problem or are you the only one who finds the behaviour problematic? If the latter is true, it is possible that you are over-reacting and need to rethink. Perhaps you should consider the possibility that some behaviour of yours could be provoking the other person to react negatively. On the other hand, if others share this view, chances are that there is a genuine problem that needs to be addressed.
Some people just seem to ‘push our buttons'. We feel irritated and tend to lash out. It is important to stay calm and refuse to play along, even if the other person tries to provoke you. When you stay calm, you come across as being mature and in control of the situation.
Communicate Directly With The Person
Share your feedback in concrete ways to the concerned person and explain in what way their behaviour is causing problems or comes across as offencsive. Make sure that you are in a private place where you cannot be overheard by others. Keep the discussion to the current issue and do not bring up other issues from the past or speak against the character of the person.
Communication also involves listening with the intention to understand. Allow the person to communicate his or her perspective. Could there be genuine reasons for the behaviour of which you were unaware? Are there needs that could be met in a better way?
Focus on Behaviours or Situations That Can Be Changed
There is no point in harping on what has already taken place or on something over which the person has little or no control. Instead, focus on steps that the person can take going forward.
Communicate Expectations and Consequences
As a supervisor, you need to make clear what kind of behaviour or attitude is expected. Convey confidence that the person is capable of making the change, but also the fact that in the absence of appropriate change in behaviour, action will be taken. It is important that you follow through on this, because this person as well as other team members must get the message that unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated.
Give and Expect Respect
Do not put down or belittle the person and avoid sarcasm or offensive language. Avoid speaking against the person to other co-workers and do not encourage jokes at his / her expense. At the same time you do need to make it clear that you will not accept a disrespectful tone or language either.
Keep it Professional
Whatever you may feel about an individual's personal habits or behaviours, restrict the discussion to concerns that have an impact on professional life. Personal likes and dislikes have no place here. Remember also not to take any reaction personally.
Escalate if Necessary
It may be necessary to communicate to your own manager regarding an ongoing situation. Convey the problems you are facing, the steps you have taken and your own recommendations. Try to remain positive and be willing to solve the problem.