Dealing With Difficult People

From the conversations we have with people in management positions in organizations of all types, the number one issue continues to be how to deal with difficult people; people who don’t get along with others, who treat others disrespectfully, who are disruptive, the list goes on and on. The inevitable comment and question is always the same: I’ve talked to this person about their behavior over and over again but nothing changes. What can I do?

Before you can even begin to solve this dilemma, you have to understand the problem. I have discussed this at great length in Unshackled Leadership and in earlier issues of this newsletter so I’ll address it summarily here. Human beings are like a computer. When you turn on your computer, software boots up which determines how the computer operates and what it can do.

When a human being wakes up, a conversation boots up that determines how the human being operates and what it can do. For the vast majority of people, the conversation is that of the ego and, as Deepak Chopra says, the ego mind believes you are an isolated individual trying to survive in a hostile world. Wow. Said another way, when we listen to the voice of the ego, it has us believe that you are over there, I am over here, we are separate and you are the enemy.

What you can surely conclude about all of these so-called difficult people is that this ego conversation is loud and not only do they listen to it, they believe it. These people are struggling to survive in a hostile world and they are doing that in the best way they know how. As a result, all efforts on your behalf to get them to behave differently cannot produce a positive result because they are simply operating under a faulty program and they cannot do anything about it, no matter how much they want to!

Is there a solution? Yes. You have two choices. One is simple: fire them and get someone who has a different operating system. Sometimes that is the best solution. The other is to train them, something you cannot do on your own unless you are trained yourself in doing that. Either send them someplace where they can get the support they need to get reprogrammed or bring some training in house, like the work we do, where they can get the support they need. The advantage of this later course is that you can include others in the training so everyone grows together.

What we surely do not recommend is what many feel is a third choice: do nothing and complain about them or just let them continue behaving in the unacceptable way they do. That is a choice in which nobody wins. If you have a broken computer, you either fix it or get a new one. The same two choices apply here.

If you’d like some recommendations as to programs that are available to send people to or would like to hear more about how we do this inside your organization, please give us a call.

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