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Archive for managing difficult people

Colleen’s Demo Dealing with Difficult People Seminar

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

What if you could know what your boss is thinking? Their top concerns, worries, professional likes and dislikes? Who they want to hire, promote, or fire and why? And what if you’re a student about to enter the workforce, or already in it? As an author, award-winning speaker, and workplace expert, Colleen Kettenhofen has delivered more than 1,100 entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She has interviewed over 200 managers and a handful of top executives and CEOs to find out job-critical secrets about employees that bosses don’t share easily. Many revealed details of what they expect and, more importantly, don’t expect from their employees. Armed with this insight–whether you’re in the workforce, or a student, or both,–you’ll be better prepared to communicate successfully with others. Maybe you’ll receive more recognition–or even a raise!

*Please note: this demo video is simply an illustration or “audition” of Colleen’s keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars on leadership, managing people, dealing with difficult people, and improving communication and morale.

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.

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.

     Are you a difficult person? If you’re honest with yourself, you can be difficult from time to time, right? The question is how do you deal with the chronically difficult people — you know, those who manage to get under your skin every time? Whether you’re managing a difficult person at work with a sense of entitlement, or conversing with a know-it-all customer,  you can counteract their bitter aftertaste. It just takes practice – and patience. I know because I hear about these people all the time when I speak on “7 Magic Wands for Making Difficult People Disappear.”

     The secret to bouncing back higher from what life throws at you – like dealing with difficult people – is discovering how to live, work, and (in some cases) love difficult people. Because in reality there will always be difficult people.

      Have you ever noticed that an early-morning negative interaction with somebody you’d call a “difficult person” can set the tone for the entire day? Have you struggled to shake off a negative aftertaste and told yourself, “It’s not that big of a deal, just move on” but the feeling lingers? What can you do?

     Difficult conversations mar your day because you become so hot and bothered you keep processing the emotions evoked by the interaction. To blunt the impact, save this processing for later.

     How do you do that? By immediately stepping into a happy, funny, or positive environment. The next time you have lunch, or a short break, spend a few minutes reading the comics, having coffee with a co-worker, or calling your close friend to make plans for the weekend. I do realize you’re probably doing the work of five people and probably don’t even know what a “break” is anymore! Believe me, I do understand. Yet, in the midst of a more fun and positive setting, you’ll gain a new perspective for processing your negative emotions! Additionally, you can engage in an activity that distracts you so much (one that uses many brain cells) that pretty soon you won’t even be thinking about that difficult person! You’ll be so caught up in what you’re doing, you won’t have time to think about that individual as much.

   When dealing with difficult people in the future, you’ll now have “practice” for learning to process your emotions later – if at all. Next thing you know, you’ll have counteracted the difficult person’s aftertaste, and you’ll be giving advice to others on dealing with difficult people! Nothing helps you feel better than knowing you’ve helped someone else. Good luck to you!

Kern Radio

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

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