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Archive for Difficult People

Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. ~ Thomas Paine

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “What are some tips for managing conflict in the workplace?” This is because most managers want to know how to fend off major issues before they escalate. And even in the most congenial work environment, conflicts will occur. But this doesn’t have to create a sense of impending doom! When you effectively use the energy from conflicts in the workplace they also have the ability to transform your problems into opportunities. In fact, by incorporating the following steps your conflicts can become more manageable and take your problem solving methods to a whole new level.

Cool Heads Prevail During Times of Conflict in the Workplace

Conflicts get messy and complicated when they are steeped with emotion. Why? Both sides are passionate about their point of view and want to win! When someone is personally invested in winning they tend to lose sight of everything else. If things get too heated, this is when business relationships can be severely damaged. Bringing both sides together to discuss issues in a reasonable way will allow solutions to flourish. Additionally, separating the person from the issue will encourage discussion rather than arguments and debates.

When Managing Conflict in the Workplace, Encourage Proactive Problem Solving

When your employees start focusing on proactive solutions that’s when conflicts start to fade and problem solving thrives. Encourage and listen to all ideas and solutions. Create an environment that supports teamwork and discourages superficial criticism. If someone does drift back to their original position, ask them why other options couldn’t be considered. This gives each person a chance to carefully consider their proposals in an objective way.  When managing conflict in the workplace, the more reasonable you are in finding solutions, the better opportunity you will have in garnering a compromise.

Objectively Analyze the Situation

It’s easy to have lots of ideas but finding out how viable they are usually takes extensive research. Ask your employees to get more details about costs, timelines and contingency plans. This will also give them the ability to see if a particular process is possible while they are looking for the best solution. Encouraging your employees to fill in these details also fosters ownership of the process. As they gain perspective, some of their original objections will be resolved and lose their power in preventing progress.

Find Out What Works and Build From There

As employees go through the conflict resolution process they will discover that cooperation is the best path towards successful results. When they demonstrate good teamwork, tell them specifically what actions you appreciate. Giving this consistent and positive feedback will likely guide them into a mindset that thinks more about the team and less about their own interests. If they get off track a bit, then point out why the goal of resolving the issue is important to the organization.

As a motivational speaker, I see many employees who think they are a team when in fact they are just a work group. They haven’t been coached into a “we” mentality. One of the keys to successfully managing conflict in the workplace is steering them away from the “me” mindset.

Have a Definite Resolution

You might encounter a situation where multiple solutions are equally good. However, if they all can’t be implemented then a choice has to be made. Often, your leadership position gives you the advantage of knowing what upper management would support. Once the final choice is made, briefly explain your reasons to your employees and stick to your decision. When managing conflict in the workplace, consistency is key. Unresolved conflicts will keep things unsettled, you’ll appear passive, and nothing will move forward. Even if the final choice isn’t celebrated by everyone, at least it gives closure to the conflict and that will be appreciated by the majority.

Managing conflict in  the workplace isn’t easy, but with your assistance it can ultimately create a more cooperative, cohesive atmosphere for everyone!

About Colleen Kettenhofen, Leadership Expert, Motivational Speaker

CREDENTIALS: Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and motivational keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows across the country and has written more than 40+ popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 fun and entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 published audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.

Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (623)340-7690 in Portland, Oregon.

Dealing with Difficult Personalities within a Team

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

From the overly confident to the overly negative, dealing with difficult personalities is a skill every team member should master.

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men.” ~ Albert Einstein

So, you’re on a team. Your team has a mission. The only problem is: your team has people in it. Not just ANY people, people with difficult personalities. You can throw your hands up and scream every time these difficult people rub you the wrong way, or you can learn productive ways of working with them without going insane.

Dealing with Difficult Personalities within a Team? Change Your Own Behavior

Let’s face it; people will not change just because you want them to. As any psychologist will tell you, the only way to change how you feel about a situation (or another person, for that matter) is to change your own behavior in coping. Here are a few examples of difficult personalities and simple ways of dealing with them when working within a team.

The Bully

The Bully is argumentative, aggressive and intimidating. To deal with The Bully, you will need to avoid arguing with him/her while maintaining control of each discussion. Sometimes, in order to maintain control without fueling The Bully’s flame, you will have to state your opinion clearly, succinctly, and directly and ignore their attempts at trapping you into an argument. In dealing with difficult personalities within a team, face the fact that you will not win in a debate with this person. No one will. It is easier not to incite workplace bullies. And workplace bullying is at an all-time high. How do I know? It’s the topic I’m most frequently asked to speak on when I’m a guest on a radio show.

Negative Nelly

Negative Nelly sees the unfavorable in every situation. To them, every idea is bad and every attempt at a solution to a problem will result in a negative outcome. Negative Nelly thrives on when he/she can say the following words: I TOLD YOU SO, or, THAT WON’T WORK. No one likes to hear those words. The best way to deal with this difficult person is to avoid discussing solutions with them. When these situations cannot be avoided, try to remain positive and realistic. Assume Negative Nelly will bring the “I told you so’s” along to every discussion and be prepared not to let them get to you. When I conduct leadership seminars and keynotes for corporations and associations, bosses tell me that one of their biggest frustrations is negativity. It’s easy to see why. If it’s not dealt with, it can become like a cancer that spreads!

The Over Achiever or Know-It-All

The Over Achiever seems to know everything. This “Know-It-All” person can spew out “facts” on any given subject. They are similar to the workplace bullies. The Over Achiever likes to stand in the spotlight and wants everyone to “know” how smart he/she is. Many times, it’s just easier not to get wrapped up in conversation with this person to avoid all the know-it-all-ness about them! But, it can be more productive to admit to yourself  (and to them) that they may actually be a great source of knowledge. Ask a few questions and throw in some praise now and then–sincere praise, of course! you may see that their need to “show off” might dissipate a bit once they realize that others appreciate their knowledge base.

The Non-Team Player

The person within the team who is obviously NOT a team player will be the most difficult personality to deal with. The Non-Team Player is the most destructive person on the team. Again, these people are similar to workplace bullies but in a different, “silent” antagonistic fashion. This person does not share knowledge and does not participate well in open discussions. They always seem to be “doing things” behind everyone’s backs”. Everyone questions the motives of this person. The most effective way of dealing with The Non-Team Player is by kindly questioning them in group discussions. Don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer. Force them to participate by including them as much as possible in all team activities.

Dealing with difficult personalities seems to increase exponentially in difficulty when working within a team. It is important to keep in mind that you are all on the same team working towards the same goal. And most importantly, you all NEED each other. Each individual team member’s skill sets and strengths were sought out for a reason: to complete a team. Learn to appreciate what each person has to offer and to work effectively with those who tend to make things a little difficult at times. It may not be easy at first, but in dealing with difficult personalities within a team, it will certainly help in securing your sanity!

It’s like the old cliche’ goes: It takes all kinds of personalities to make the world go ’round!

It is in how YOU deal with them that defines who YOU are (and how you feel)!

About Colleen Kettenhofen, Leadership Expert, and Motivational Speaker

Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and conference keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows around the country and has written more than 40 popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 dynamic and entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.

A Portland, Oregon-based motivational speaker, Colleen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (623)340-7690.



It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.”
~ David Caruso

There are numerous qualitative traits that make up an effective leader – charisma, vision, determination, etc. These traits are not only well-known, but also well-understood. However, another key, yet sometimes overlooked, factor when looking at effective leadership is – emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence centers on one’s ability to not only manage and understand our own emotions, but also those of the people around us. This quality allows us to influence others and manage personal relationships. Although everyone has some level of emotional intelligence, effective leadership requires the leader to be well-skilled in this arena. A leader who has high levels of emotional intelligence can facilitate teamwork, inspire their employees, cultivate creativity, and motivate increased productivity.

Traits of Emotional Intelligence for Effective Leadership

There are five primary traits of emotional intelligence, you need to develop to truly become an effective leader:

  1. Self awareness – Leaders who have high levels of emotional intelligence know their strengths, known their weaknesses, and can recognize these emotions as they are happening to themselves.
  2. Self regulation – Emotional intelligence also includes the ability to self regulate. Effective leaders control their emotions; they do not allow their emotions to control them. With emotional intelligence comes a leader’s ability to think before he acts on emotion-driven impulse.
  3. Superior communication skills – Effective leadership centers on communication, and superior communication skills is a key trait in those with emotional intelligence. Leaders must be able to concisely and clearly convey their thoughts and directions to others, in order to inspire them to action.
  4. Social awareness – Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to empathize with those around them. They do not judge others too quickly and put themselves in the other person’s shoes. They strive to truly understand the needs and wants of others to best align their mutual goals.
  5. True team players – Emotional intelligence is seen in effective leaders who are true team players. They understand: “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.’” They will often put aside their immediate personal wants or needs for the greater good of the organization, knowing in the end the rewards will be much richer than the instant gratification of being selfish. This serves as a role model for others, who then follow suit.

Developing these five traits is critical for effective leadership.

CREDENTIALS: Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and conference keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows around the country and has written more than 40 popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 published audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.

Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (623)340-7690.

Difficult People: Are Emotional Vampires Driving You Batty?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

     In my book “Secrets Your Boss Isn’t Telling You,” I reveal seven magic “wands” if you will, for dealing with difficult people. During this holiday season, many participants in my keynotes and seminars on leadership have asked me for tips on dealing with difficult people in the workplace, and in general. Here’s one suggestion for that…

Do what you can to refill the well so Emotional Vampires don’t drive you batty!

     In a tough economy, everyone experiences adversity from time to time–whether it’s caring for a loved one, job insecurities, reduced incomes, managing a difficult employee and more. Maybe it’s that you’re “hanging in there” and dealing with a difficult boss. People seem to be working harder than ever…and complaining more. You’ve undoubtedly known people who come to work and complain about their home life, then go home and complain about their professional life! What a never-ending day!

     But what if you’re working as hard as you can both at work and at home and feeling underappreciated? As someone who has previously been in the role of caregiver as well as running a speaking, coaching, and consulting business, I understand. And I empathize with the hard work single parents do, even though I’m only “mom” to two wonderful dogs. As Mother Teresa said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread alone.”

     So, what do you do when you feel underappreciated–especially when dealing with difficult people? Mark Twain said it best. “When you cannot get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.”

     Look in the mirror. And what I’m about to say, I say respectfully. You are the only person responsible for how you feel. Ultimately, you can’t control what someone else will–or won’t–say to you. Indeed, some people get so focused on their needs, they’ll never be able to appreciate you. Heed this saying: “You can’t ask a naked man to give you the shirt off his back.” Some people simply don’t have love to give back because they don’t love themselves first.

     So treat yourself with small rewards for a job well done. Refill the well and don’t let Emotional Vampires drive you batty. Difficult people are Emotional Vampires who suck the life out of you. And it can take days, weeks, or months to recover if you don’t do something positive to blunt their impact and counteract their bitter aftertaste. (Do you recall my earlier blog on this topic? Start there.)

     What can you plan this weekend that would boost your happiness quotient? Drive to the beach or mountains, splurge on a pedicure or manicure, spend time with your significant other, see a movie with supportive friends. Simply don’t let difficult people get you down. One of the secrets to successfully dealing with difficult people is to remember that you choose your response–both inwardly and outwardly. If you keep dissecting what Emotional Vampires said or did to you, you’re giving them power over you.  Remember, the person who constantly angers, frustrates, or intimidates you actually controls you.

     A highly sought-after speaker, author, and executive facilitator, Colleen Kettenhofen has delivered more than 1,100 entertaining programs before thousands in 48 states and five countries. Why is Colleen such a popular speaker at conventions, sales and leadership meetings? She blends humorous slice-of-life stories with practical insights that are easy to put in place immediately. For speaking availability and fees, please contact Colleen at (623)340-7690.



Harold Fisher, radio host of Sirius XM Satellite’s The Daily Drum

Dealing with difficult people, dealing with difficult people at work,

how to deal with a difficult boss, managing difficult people.


Listen to Interview ->

Managing Difficult People, A Few Quick Tips

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Chances are you know of leaders in your organization who were promoted to management positions based on their performance. In other words, they earned a promotion based on their “hard skills” or technical skills.  They were promoted because they were doing an outstanding job –  but it doesn’t mean they possess the necessary social skills – especially when managing difficult people.

 Managing Difficult People: Do You Feel Like You’re Running an Adult Day Care?

     In conducting management and leadership programs all over the world, managers will tell me they feel like they’re a “babysitter” or referree running an adult day care. And it’s usually regarding just one or two difficult employees. As you know, one bad apple can ruin it for everybody! If you don’t nip it in the bud with the difficult people early on, they become like a cancer that spreads. Soon their continuous bad behavior becomes more of a negative reflection on the boss and not on the difficult employee. Why is that? Because everyone starts to wonder, “Why isn’t anything being done about this?” People begin to view the manager as weak – and enabling the behavior.

     Believe me, I understand that managing difficult people is challenging. When you address the issue you don’t know how they’re going to react. Are they going to cry? Are they going to become defensive?

Managing Difficult People? Nip It In The Bud!! 

     The number one reason why managers and supervisors fail to address problem behavior when managing difficult people is because they want to avoid conflict. Another reason is because sometimes they’re managing a friend or former colleague, and they want to remain a buddy. Unfortunately, by ignoring the issue, the situation spirals out of control. Some workers get to where they can’t take it anymore and leave. Yes, even in this tough economy, I’m hearing of superstars quitting in disgust and taking new jobs elsewhere. To avoid this from happening, consult your HR department (if you have one) before you do anything. They are your best resource.

In Managing Difficult People, Get at the Root Cause of Poor Performance and Take Action

     So, it’s no surprise that the question I’m asked most often is, “How do you deal with a difficult employee”?  Simply put, you can’t control them, but you can control their environment. You want to do everything possible to coach the employee to better performance. You also want to show you are doing everything possible to coach the employee to better performance? How do you do that? Start by getting at the root cause of the difficult employee’s poor performance.

     Make the employee aware of whatever the issue is and offer support. For instance, you can recommend your Employee Assistance Program if you have one, or some other type of outside counseling. Be empathetic and let them know you are there to support them. At this point, they’re more likely to confide the problem and from there you can focus on the solution.

     If the poor performance is related to skill or knowledge, provide additional training. You don’t have to do the training yourself. This could be cross-training or it could consist of sending them to a seminar, or both.

In Managing Difficult People, Document, Document, Document 

     Documentation isn’t anything new, but many managers confide to me privately that they don’t document simply because they don’t have the time. Please, in managing difficult people you must do the documentation. Document the good stuff, too. This demonstrates you’re fair and objective.  If necessary, you may have to resort to progressive disciplinary action such as issuing a verbal warning. Depending on the severity of the situation you may even start with a written warning, but most likely the first write-up will be verbal. This can be an effective method for motivating what I call the “just-there-to-collect-a-paycheck employee.”

     What if you’re at the end of your ropes and nothing has worked? Sometimes you can do all the right things and it doesn’t work out because they’re not the right person for the job. They’re not a bad person. They’re just not a good fit. Usually, I find that the difficult employee is not someone you hired but someone you inherited.

More tips on managing difficult people will be forthcoming. Good luck!


Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace employee and management expert, corporate trainer and  conference keynote speaker. She has delivered more than 1,100 keynotes and seminars in 48 states and five foreign countries for top corporations and associations. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows around the country and has written more than 40 articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen is the author of 10 audio programs and two books including Secrets Your Boss Isn’t Telling You.

 “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echos are truly endless.” ~ Mother Teresa

     When dealing with difficult people, the word “kind” may not be the first thing that comes to your mind.Still, the above quote by Mother Teresa is a terrific one to remember so that we don’t become the difficult people. We know to treat others with respect – even those who are hurtful toward us, but we don’t always do with what we know. It’s starts with remembering – and practicing – the basics. What are the basics? Treat the difficult person with at least  some reverence, and don’t take what they say personally. How do you do that? Please read on…

     Let me first say that in presenting keynotes and seminars on dealing with difficult people, the question I’m most often asked is, “How do you not take it personally?”

     Accept that what others do to you is not always personal. Seek first to understand them and what they might be going through. For example, you’d heard people say, “Walk in someone else’s shoes.” Here’s why that advice works: It get you out of your own agenda of believing a hurtful interaction was directed at you.

     Know that most difficult interactions don’t happen because someone woke up one day and decided, “I know what I’ll do! I’ll purposely be mean to Jane Doe today.” Most people just don’t think that way – even difficult people.

Dealing with Difficult People, and Collateral Damage

     Instead, realize that the number one source of difficult interactions is what I call “collateral damage.” People do what they do for their own reasons, and it’s easy to get caught in the crosshairs of their actions. In my role as a corporate speaker with companies and associations all over the world, I frequently witness this happening in the workplace. And especially if you’re a salesperson, your first rule is to not take rejection of your product, service, or message as a rejection of you.

     So take a snapshot of other people’s lives at the time, think about the pressures they’re under, and then accept that what they did to you wasn’t about you. Don’t take it personally. It’s advice that’s trite but true.

     As bestselling author Stephen R. Covey wrote, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Adopting that attitude lets you realize that whatever others did to make something difficult for you, they didn’t do it to you. They just did it.


A frequent media guest, Colleen Kettenhofen is the author of two books, Secrets Your Boss Isn’t Telling You, and the upcoming Adopting Joy. Colleen is author of the 10-CD audio learning system, How to Turn Around Any Situation or Person. Her areas of expertise are leadership, dealing with difficult people, managing change, and improving presentation skills. For free articles, or to sign up for Colleen’s newsletter, visit Colleen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions and seminars by calling toll free (800)323-0683. Or, locally in Phoenix (623)340-7690.



Interview with Bo Hudson from CBS Radio

Monday, August 29th, 2011
Host: Bo Hudson
Interview Date: July 27, 2011
Topics: How to Get a Great Job, What Employers Look for on Interviews, Bosses’ Biggest Frustrations, How to Keep Your Job, Effective Leadership

Listen to Interview ->

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and immediately dismissed that person as a jerk? Have you ever gotten annoyed at someone who didn’t call you back and, under your breath, concluded, “This person is a butthead!”

     You’re likely to call people jerks or buttheads (if only in your mind) for one of two reasons: 1) because of a personality trait that person possesses that clashes with your own, or 2) because that person simply didn’t do what you wanted in that moment. Dealing with difficult people is often the result of a personality clash.

     Let’s look at an example of the first. A friend of mine has difficulty with a co-worker whom she describes as “anal retentive” and calls a perfectionist. Not surprising, my friend is the complete opposite. She also has a hard time understanding this colleague because she says she’s too blunt with others. Their ways of handling situations differ completely. And sometimes their personalities clash.

     Adding to that, they were raised differently when it came to resolving conflict. While the “blunt” person learned to be direct, my friend was raised with the belief that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In this case as in many, different people equal difficult people.

     If you possess personality traits that clash with someone else’s, try to resolve issues in person, or, next best thing, over the phone. Nowadays, people in the workplace are challenged by important messages getting misconstrued via email. You know how it goes. You send someone a neutral email and its meaning is taken the wrong way. Why? One reason is because you can’t “read” a person’s body language in email. And there’s no “tone of voice” unless you carefully craft one.

     Carol Burnett said it best. “Words, once they’re printed, tend to take on a life of their own.”

     Yes, it’s more confrontational to talk with someone in person, but in the long run, you’ll find it more constructive.

     Here’s an example of the second. My friend got asked out by a guy she really liked. He was regarded as an easy-going gentleman to those of us who knew him well, but he never asked her out a second time. She instantly dismissed him as a jerk. However, once she realized he was “difficult” because he didn’t do what she wanted him to do, she got over it!

     Sometimes difficult people aren’t really difficult. They’re simply different.

In conducting thousands of seminars on dealing with difficult people, managing difficult people, and leadership for corporations all over the world, the one type of worker I hear about most is the negativist. Now, we can all be difficult from time to time. But the people I’m talking about are the chronically negative difficult people that really get under everybody’s skin.

This is the problem-child whiner who complains, has no solutions, and says, “I don’t get paid enough to worry about that!” Or says sarcastically, “It’s not my job.”

While these people can be challenging to work with, they can be harder to manage. That’s because many managers and supervisors get promoted to management positions based on their hard skills or technical skills. Yet, the very skills that got them promoted aren’t the ones they’ll often use in managing people. Often, bosses say to me, “I’m tired of being everybody’s babysitter or referee.” Or they’ll say, “I feel like I’m running an adult day care!” That’s where I come in – to coach them and train them in what to say – and what not to say –  in dealing with difficult people.  Bosses have to be very careful nowadays because we live in such a litigious society.

And as someone said on a radio show the other day, “It goes both ways. Bosses have to be outstanding role models if they want outstanding employees.” Well said!

So, what if you’re dealing with difficult people – and their negativity at work – but you’re not the manager?  You may not have direct authority over these people, but there are things you can do. One thing you can do is offer the difficult person a solution. Chronic complainers don’t want solutions. Eventually they’ll move on to someone else.

Another method in dealing with difficult people is to continue doing your work. Look up occasionally. Nod occasionally. Most likely, they’ll move on to someone else because they’re looking for an audience. They want someone who will buy in to their negativity. Or, you can be more direct. Tactfully say, “I know this is something you want to discuss, but I have a lot of work and I want to make sure I get it done.”

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to start complaining. Otherwise, the two of you will be feeding off of each other. The next time they want to complain they’ll come to you first!

Document your interactions with these difficult people at work. Eventually, if you can’t resolve it on your own, your manager will have to step in and take action.

The good news? It demonstrates to your boss that you’re proactive. It shows you’re a problem solver in dealing with difficult people. You attempted to tackle this difficult person on your own first, without being a tattletale.  Your boss will appreciate you for making the effort. Unfortunately, now it’s up to them to become the babysitter.