Here is the challenge: no one likes the idea of dealing with difficult people. As leaders,  we have no choice, it comes with the territory. In all my years, I believe I have experienced most of the types, here’s a few:

  • Arrogant know it all’s
  • Perpetual whiners (love them…)
  • Mr. & Ms. Excuses

The truth is we can’t ignore these people. When these types of individuals aren’t managed, they can become a plague in our organizations. Sometimes just one difficult person can can wipe out an entire team’s effectiveness.

What could be worse than not immediately dealing with these people? Your stronger team members experience your lack of addressing the issue and lose respect for your leadership abilities . If this practice continues, the best team members may leave. Remember, the stronger ones have options, the weaker ones don’t and stay. Not a healthy situation.

I suggest you try the following when it comes to addressing difficult people effectively:

  • Acknowledge the issue: when you learn of unacceptable behavior, don’t ignore it, gather facts and have the conversation with the person ASAP. In your conversation it is critical you be level-headed and non-accusatory, and that it includes a representation of factual examples.
  • Target behavior, not the person: I have found the most effective way to address hard-to-deal with people is to discuss the behaviors they’ve been displaying or actions they’ve been taking that are inappropriate or unacceptable. Stay with the facts. After you share your comments, stop talking and listen. Regardless of why they are doing what they are doing, we are never attacking them personally, just the behavior or actions.
  • Get to the root of the problem, and create a solution:  Simply pointing out the behavior is not enough to create the change needed. Idle threats or demands to do better may not get the results. Being difficult is a learned behavior that oftentimes stems from fear and/or stress. Here is where good questioning demonstrates care and candor and must take place to get the the root cause. It’s a good idea to ask the employee his or her ideas and thoughts on how the behavior or actions could change. You may be surprised.

The next step is to improve, or move on.