4 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Employees

December 19, 2013 by  

How often have you needed to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker or employee, and found any excuse to avoid the confrontation? Even highly assertive people struggle with difficult conversations, especially when it is with a difficult person.
As we all know, sometimes conversations with difficult people are unavoidable, and absolutely necessary for leaders. Many times, these conversations end up being arguments or difficult discussions because these people press our buttons. So, when such a conversation is necessary, what is an effective approach that will bring us win/win outcome?
1. Say it
Do not avoid the conversation. Despite the fact that the natural human tendency is to avoid the confrontation, avoidance does not make a problem go away, and over time, it can make the problem or issue worse and certainly harder to resolve.
2. Say it in a way they can hear you
Take the time to formulate your message in an honest and respectful manner using appropriate language for this particular person. (lighten it up, or be more direct depending on the personality type with whom you are dealing).
3. Listen
Without active, focussed listening, one cannot truly understand why we have this problem. Hear them out and repeat back what you heard for clarification. Ask questions to learn more about their take on the situation. Most differences can be resolved by actively listening and discovering where your areas of agreement lie. Then you can agree to disagree or find a reasonable compromise. However you will now better understand the other person’s perspective of the situation….maybe you will even learn something new.
4. Let it go
Following the difficult conversation, even if you did not get exactly what you wanted as an outcome, let it go. Their reaction is not your responsibility. You cannot control the result of this verbal exchange; you can only attempt to achieve a certain end. Honestly, you will feel better just for trying.

The four steps outlined above are not easy. However they are necessary and are actually the only way to find a solution. Some of the biggest growth opportunities in the workplace come through confronting and dealing with people with whom we may not get along. The more we know about our co-workers, we more we listen actively to their problems and points of view; difficult or not, the better we will be able to work with them in the future.