Dealing With Difficult People

There was an article recently about employees to terminate immediately.  They classified them as non-believers, victims and know-it-alls.  All 3 types had to go before you knew anything else about them or LISTENED to what they said.  The question I would ask is they must have been okay when they were hired or why were they hired?  In the article, these people were perceived to be the problem but I would say they may be the inspiration.

This happens all the time.  People rush to judgment about individuals.  In fact, a common question we’re asked when a new team begins is, “what do you do when there’s one person who won’t go along with the rest of the group?”

A perfect example of how a “difficult” person may be the inspiration is an exercise we did with a group.  I don’t remember what the exercise was about but it was a consensus exercise with answers groups had to agree on.  One person held out for what he believed to be the right answer.  No matter how hard the rest of the group tried to convince him it was the wrong answer, he couldn’t go along with them.  He was perceived to be a difficult individual and, therefore, it was HIS fault they couldn’t solve the problem.  This exercise was one that did have correct answers to it and it turned out the person perceived as being “difficult” was correct.  Everyone else was wrong.

This happens not just in workplace groups but any other group working on projects or issues.  People need to realize sometimes those who won’t conform to the rest of the group may have some legitimate thoughts.  It may be some tweaking to have everyone agree or it may be more information is needed before a decision can be finalized.  What we tell people is always LISTEN – really pay attention and understand – to what someone is saying.  Sometimes people may have some difficulty expressing their thoughts.  They may need help with clarifying their thoughts.  The “difficult” person may have an idea the rest of the group didn’t think about.

When the situation occurs, we also tell people to ask that person “what would help you to come to agreement with us?”   Another way to approach the problem is to do a “trial run” on the idea.   Nothing is ever cut in stone.  All solutions to problems need to be reviewed periodically.  In all the committees we have worked with, it has been a rare experience to have one person hold out.  When that does happen, the chair(s) of the group may need to have a talk with the individual away from other members.  That should only happen after all the other ideas mentioned have been tried.  That should be the absolute last resort.

This can all take some time but the outcome  can be well worth it!

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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