4 Steps for Dealing With a Difficult Team Member
What do you do when someone on your team is being difficult?
Mark Lutz, pastor of growth and healing at Vineyard Cincinnati, shares steps leaders can take when they have a difficult person on their team. He explains there are three things to do upfront to establish a collaborative relationship with the person:
- Listen, especially to the emotion.
- Validate the human experience.
- Offer any concessions you have.
The last step is to talk about the discrepancy and set clear expectations moving forward. “[As the leader,] I'm going to have to talk about whatever discrepancy is making this a difficult interaction,” explains Mark. “I declare what I see differently and I have to state very plainly the most I'm willing to do, the least I'm willing to accept, the requirements, and what the consequences will be for not meeting those requirements.”
Watch the video to learn more about these four steps on how to deal with difficult people.
But the human experience part I might be able to. I could say, "Well, gee if I thought my boss was really out to get me. I'd feel frustrated and concerned also." So validate the human experience piece. Offer any concession that I can. Meaning sometimes people give us good feedback in a bad package. They're just angry or whatever, but there's a nugget there that's valuable. If I can recognize that and offer that as a concession to say, "You know what? In future events maybe we can bring you in the loop a little faster." I like to do that.
Doing those first three things starts to establish a collaborative relationship. Lets them know I'm not just going to be competitive, but I want to be a partner with them. And it sets me up to have better success at the next thing I'm going to have to do, which is I'm going to have to talk about whatever discrepancy is making this a difficult interaction.
And so at that point, I'm going to have to say, "We agree on these things, but at this point, I think I think differently." And especially if you're the leader, you're the supervisor, you're going to have to declare that this is the most I'm willing to do. This is the least I'm willing to accept. These are the requirements and these are the consequences if the requirements aren't met. And I think if you have someone who is really a team player and they're just being difficult, situationally, this thing is a concern to them and they're having a bad reaction, you show yourself collaborative, you declare what you need. Most of those folks will come around.
Then, there are folks who are just bent on being mad. They're angry about something, and they're determined to be difficult. And I think I've seen leaders at that point say, "Well, what more do I do?" And I think the answer is there's nothing more to do. You just keep with consistency and clarity. "This is the most I'm willing to do. This is the least I'm willing to accept. These are the requirements, these are the consequences."
And then you have to be prepared to pull the trigger on the consequences. So it's good when you declare consequences that there are things you can live with, in light of this difficult situation, but normally, that process will eliminate a difficult person, either by converting them to a cooperative person or to making it clear for you that yes, we probably do need to part ways.
So the three things I try to remember when dealing with a difficult person are to listen, especially to the heart, listen to the emotions well, reflect that back so they know that I've heard them, and validate the human experience. I might not validate their perception of what has happened or what needs to happen, but the human reaction to that I can probably relate to.
Offer any concessions that I can. And there may be a good point in there somewhere. If I can find it and offer that, those three things show that I'm collaborative. And then, finally, I declare what I see differently and I have to state very plainly the most I'm willing to do, the least I'm willing to accept, the requirements, and what the consequences will be for not meeting those requirements.
Mark Lutz prepared for ministry at Cincinnati Christian University and studied counseling at Xavier University. First working for a Christian counseling center in Cincinnati, Mark learned how to integrate faith into clinical helping. ...
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