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Dealing with Difficult People - It's About Skill - Excerpt From "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Dealing With DIfficult Employees"

Check out the book on the British Amazon site Check out amazon for complete information on the print edition In Canada? You can get this from within the country via The Kindle version can save you tons of money, and you can read it on almost any device with the free reader software Buy the PDF from us and save BIG. And, yes you can print it out or view it on a screen.

Dealing with Difficult People - It's About Skill

Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. His most recent books include Performance Management - A Briefcase Book, and The Complete Idiot's Guide To Dealing With Difficult Employees.

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Handling Difficult Employees, released in June, 2000, and written by Robert Bacal is written for people who work with difficult employees. While the book presents solutions from the manager's point of view, the principles and realities presented in the book are sure to help anyone stuck with working with a difficult employee. Coming in in excess of 300 pages, it is a hands-on practical guide, with just enough theory to help you make intelligent decisions about how to handle those difficult people.

We've provided some chapter excerpts and table of contents for your convenience. The final book version may differ slightly from the information presented here. You can purchase this book in most bookstores or order it at by clicking here. (out of print but second hand copies are usually available).


It’s Also About Skill

It’s natural to label people as difficult, or even unbalanced when we perceive their behavior to be difficult, particularly when it seems to be chronic. But there’s another consideration.

Often, the people we label as difficult just don’t know any better. Think about these folks as not knowing how to deal successfully with a situation they face. They are not bad people, any more than a poor baseball player is a bad person, or a poor writer is a bad person. They may not know how to act differently, or how to deal with a specific situation that is causing them discomfort.

Watch Out

It’s easy to mistake a lack of social skills or communications skills for something that is intentionally hurtful or damaging. Be alert to the fact that some people just don’t know how to act more appropriately.

Let’s use an example. You have just told John that one or two aspects of his work performance need some improvement (heck, nobody is perfect, right?). You explain—gently—what could be improved, and tell John that you will help him in the improvement process. You think you’ve handled the situation really, really well.

John becomes sullen and clams up in front of you. At the staff meeting held a week later, John, normally a productive team member, doesn’t say a word and sits, looking bored (obviously intentionally). Later you also hear that John has made some comments about you to other employees.

There’s a lot of ways you could interpret this. John could be some psychotic nut case in development, waiting to explode. John could be just plain angry and out to get you (so it seems). Maybe John has trouble with authority figures because they remind John of his abusive father.

Speculating in this way, however, is not going to help you deal with John’s behavior. In fact doing this might very well interfere with handling this situation well. Here’s another more constructive way to think about this.

Is it possible that John is upset about the critical (but well intended) comments? Perhaps his feelings are hurt? Of course that’s possible. Does that solve the problem? No. But what does help is to realize that John may be upset and not know how to deal with it constructively. John may not know how to express that feeling in a constructive way, or how to approach you to talk about his reaction and what should be done next.

Simply, John may be like a baseball pitcher who doesn’t know how to throw a curve ball. He’s still got to throw something, so he continues to go with what he does know how to do, which is to sulk, express his feelings in destructive ways. He is going to get his message of being upset out. He is going to communicate his unhappiness. He’s just going about it the best way he knows how, and that isn’t a very constructive or useful way.

Also, while it may seem that that John isn’t getting rewarded for his behavior, think again. By acting in his own difficult way, he is likely focusing attention on himself (usually a reinforcing thing), and most importantly, he feels he is expressing his feelings in the way that makes the most sense to him. And that’s definitely reinforcing, at least psychologically.

From the Manager’s Desk

Be alert to rewards or reinforcements a person might receive for bad behavior. People sometimes find odd things rewarding, for example, any attention (even negative attention) or getting easier assignments due to poor performance. Make sure your reaction doesn’t turn out to reward the behavior you want to stop.

Where does all this leave you, the person having to experience all this. First, if you think of John as confused or not knowing what to do, you can be more positive and helpful than if you see John’s behavior as “evil intentional behavior.” Second it helps you address part of the problem here and that is that John just may need to learn more effective ways of expressing his concerns.

About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992. Since then Robert has trained thousands of employees to deal with angry, hostile, abusive and potentially violent customers. He has authored over 20 books on various subjects, many published by McGraw-Hill.


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