project management

The Challenging Ones and How to Manage Them

Trying Times with Difficult People

At some stage in your working life you are bound to come across the challenging people, the ones that are not cooperative and are sometimes downright difficult. This perspective of someone is generally defined by their behaviour.
This can include but is not limited to:

Disrupting Meetings
Taking Everything Personally
Not co-operating with anything
Getting in the way of progress
Not supporting the rest of the team
Delaying Projects

Like all challenges you will face – people challenges are no different. You need to get to the nub of issue.

Thinking about How to Manage Challenging Teams

The person in question has a reputation for negative behaviour. A reputation can only come from frequent consistent behaviour. If the behaviour is consistent then the behaviour is predictable. If you know how the negative behaviour is likely to manifest itself, then you can plan a response to that behaviour in advance of a meeting or encounter.

Planning to Manage Difficult People

In order to effectively manage negative behaviour or a negative reaction to something we need to pin it down to exactly what it is likely to be so if you really want to make progress, follow this approach.

1. Identify the behaviour you wish to challenge – i.e. during a meeting what is the most likely outcome. If the person has a consistent way of behaving – what is that specific issue? What is the trigger for this? Hot heads tend to have a trigger point around a specific topic that will trigger an outburst. If you are aware of this trigger then you can plan for it.

2. Once you have identified the negative behaviour, plan the response. Never react. Respond. A response has generally undergone some thought or planning.

3. If you haven’t already tried, meet with the person one to one. If that has not been productive then meet with other peers and colleagues.

4. Don’t provide any ammunition for the person to exploit. i.e. don’t start off negative looking for confrontation. Avoid leading questions that gives someone room to ramble and rant. Ask only specific topic related coherent questions, questions that only require a yes, no or another specific short response.

5. If you are looking for help, try to ascertain and get the person to state publicly if they “can’t” help or if they “won’t” help. If they can’t help, then what is the obstacle preventing this? If they won’t help – then ask why? Often you can tease out a personal grudge by asking this question. The answer will normally portray to everyone else that they are not behaving professionally.

6. Always be conscious of your and their rank and position within the organization or project. Keep the context of the situation in mind. All issues can be viewed from a number of perspectives.

7. If they decide to vent in the meeting, let them vent. Don’t respond until the venting has completed. Then calmly and clearly restate your view or perspective if appropriate or if needed for clarification. You may also need to ask for clarification on what was said during the rant. Choose your words carefully -ensure they are neither negative nor confrontational.

8. Always remain in control of what you are saying and how your are saying it. Make every meeting count.

9. Once the meeting has ended, issue minutes and actions immediately. The sooner you release them after the meeting, the more accurate they will be and the more likely people are to review and respond.

10. Stick to the facts, never get personal. Even when others may behave unprofessionally – don’t use that behaviour to combat that behaviour.

In Conclusion

After several meetings and encounters where your behaviour is consistent and professional, where all minutes follow swiftly on and are accurate. After numerous encounters where you don’t give negative behaviour any similar attention, the difficult person will identify your positive behaviour and will eventually learn to behave themselves in these scenarios. If they don’t learn then they will disappoint in other areas of there working life and eventually be exposed as not performing in some other area.

Whether you are in an operational, sales, support or project setting, negative behaviour can be managed. You can’t control how others behave but you can control your own response to this behaviour. Stay Positive.

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