Dealing with Difficult Situations

It is widely recognised that good people management is key to organisation success. HR departments provide support to good people management by putting in place a range of policies, which provide a framework for people management. These policies would normally include:

·         Disciplinary procedure

·         Grievance procedure

·         Harassment policy and procedure

They may also include policies on the following:

·         Competency (this may also form part of performance management policy)

·         Absence

·         Alcohol and Drug Abuse

·         HIV/AIDS

·         Long-term sickness

The HR department should make these policies and procedures available to managers and be able to provide managers with advice and support in implementing them. This chapter focuses on the behaviours required for dealing with difficult people rather than the specific procedures.

How do you respond to conflict and difficult people situations?

There are three common responses – which way do you respond?

Fight You react in a challenging way. At work this might mean shouting or losing your temper.

Flight You turn your back on what’s going on. This is a common reaction – by ignoring a problem you hope it will go away.

Freeze You are not sure how to react and become very passive. You might begin to deal with the issue but things drift or become drawn out through indecision.

These three reactions are almost instinctive. In this chapter we explore a fourth approach to conflict and difficult situations – FACE IT. The chapter will describe some processes and give ideas to help line managers take a calm, rational and planned approach to resolving the problem.

Dealing with difficult people situations

Dealing with difficult people is one of the most challenging aspects of the line manager’s role. The people who are best at dealing with difficult people tend to show the following behaviours:

1. Build Relationships Just talk to people. Listen to people. Spend time with them and show that you truly care.

2. Focus on Outcomes Bottom line – you have an organisation to run – you have goals and visions for your organisation . While you are working towards these you are able to take really objective positions. Working in tandem with a ‘difficult person’ is challenging, but focus on where you are going, not the personal issues you face.

3. See Value

Recognising the potential of ‘difficult people’ is half the battle. They are a value and flicking the switch that truly turns them on is a worthwhile challenge.

4. Meet Regularly For an ongoing issue, make sure that you show and keep your commitments to them. This builds trust and that, in turn, makes resolution a whole lot easier.

5. Be Honest and Open It is no good trying to resolve issues when Dealing with Difficult People, if you are going to either renege on your agreements or fall down on your targets. Now is the time to be frank and honest and get a stake in the ground. These people have been lied to enough. Be really clear on your expectations and stick to them. Change their view on authority forever!

6. Deliver If you can go some way to help them resolve the cause of their anger, and it fits with everything you and your organisation stands for, then do it – and do it fast. Whatever you promise, deliver on it. Liaise with them in good time. Over-deliver on pace and issues, where you can. You will be amazed at what a difference this makes. Want to become a hero? This works!

7. Respect Them These people are real human beings. They hurt just like you do. They are, it’s true, showing some tricky behaviours, so help them with them. Make a difference to that person. You could be changing their life in a way you would never have thought possible. Have some fun even. Share a laugh maybe?

8. Find a Win-Win Solutions when Dealing with Difficult People are not cop-outs on either side. A compromise means that someone is losing here. Find a common position and seek to meet half way without losing sight of what is the most important to each of you. There is usually a win-win out there. If not, it’s time to find a solution that removes them from your business.

9 . Stick to the Point Be clear where you are going with your challenges. It is vital to have everything in place with the most difficult of ‘difficult people’. It is also of great value to have a majority on your side, albeit subtly to avoid an apparent ‘ganging up’. Play this game from a position of strength.

10. Focus on Behaviours There are often ways of highlighting a ‘difficult person’s’ qualities. Usually when Dealing with Difficult People you’ll find they do have them! In many ways these people stick around because they like bits of the role, but not others, so you can play on their capabilities and leverage them. Treat them as a valuable person and work on the behaviours.

Five Simple Actions You Can Take Today!

·         Some people will cause you pain in your organisation. Who are they? What is it costing you to have them behave in this way? What have you failed to do in the past? How have you impacted on their behaviour? Do you need to do anything differently?

·         What would you wish it to be like with them? How would they behave? This is your goal.

·         What do you need to do to make this better? What have you tried? What have you not tried and why not?

·         If you have to have a difficult series of conversations, get all your facts straight and if necessary, start again. Set clear expectations, goals and timescales. This works!

·         Include in the discussions the good stuff too. They are mostly good people and want to do well. Can you find their button to press? Because that is the most cost-effective goal.

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