Managing Difficult People
Are there difficult people? Or are there just different people? Many authors and observers have identified certain personality or behavioral characteristics that result in some people simply being difficult to get along with. Others regard the "difficult person" perception as a result of "differentness" between ourselves and others. In either case, the workplace conflicts that arise can be costly* ones.
The Track 2 option is recommended for managers who find themselves responsible for the performance of "difficult people." The Track 3 option is recommended for human resource professionals and other support staff.
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Edited by Melissa Zarda. See other bibliographies.
Contributors: Jennifer Yelton, Ken Von Uht, Shalini Kabra,
Rose Orsini, Phonsavanne Sithiphon, Cavit Kahya, Ed Beaupre, Sarah E. Kelly
Copyright restriction: The contents of this bibliography may not be placed on other websites, but links from other websites may be directed to this page. Hardcopies of this page may be printed for academic purposes.
- Bacal, Robert. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handling Difficult Employees. Bacal & Associates, Ontario, Canada, June 2000.
This book was 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. It is a hands-on practical guide, with just enough theory to help you make intelligent decisions about how to handle those difficult people.
- Bacal, Robert. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace – The Book, Learn to prevent unnecessary conflict at work & home. Bacal & Associates, Ontario, Canada.
This book teaches you how small modifications in how you communicate will affect the degree to which you actually contribute to conflict situations. If you change your communication ability, you can significantly reduce conflict around you and your employees. This book explains what you need to stop saying, and how to replace conflict provoking language with productive communication.
- Bacal, Robert. Defusing Hostile People Part 1&2. Bacal & Associates, Ontario, Canada, A Briefcase book.
An angry person needs to have the issue and their feelings addressed in order to start interacting constructively. The angrier the person, the more important it is to acknowledge their anger through the use of empathy statements and listening responses first, before moving on to the issue. Problem solving with angry people often results in wasted time unless they are ready to participate calmly.
- Bell , H. Arthur & Smith,M. Dayle. (2004) Winning With Difficult People (Barron's Business Success Guides). Barron's Educational Series; 3rd edition.
The authors point out twelve difficult personality types that can be found in business environments, then offer tips to help readers understand what makes them tick and how the rest of us can best cope with them. A questionnaire helps you to identify what type of person you are, and explains the different personality types, helping you to see why some people react in certain ways. You will realize eventually why you seem to always clash with a certain personality group. This book gives you tips on how you can handle 'difficult' people and helps you to have a clearer picture of yourself.
- Bergman, Martin, G .E., & Thomas, J. (1996). The dynamics of behavioral
response to conflict in the workplace. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, (Volume 69 Part 4 pp 377).
This article examines how the interpersonal conflict process evolves in the workplace. A questionnaire was designed to examine behavioral reasons for conflict and how they develop over time. The data revealed that there are inconsistencies as well as similarities.
- Bernstein, A. J. (1989). Personality Clashes. Training & Development Journal, Vol. 43, p17.
This article gives advice on dealing with people who are hard to handle in the work environment. Author includes four different approaches to similar situations that you might encounter during a conflict with your work colleagues. Author also emphasizes that you should examine the causes of your emotional reaction to a colleague since you only have control over your own actions.
- Brennan, W. (2005). When colleagues turn. Occupational Health, Vol. 57, p18-19.
In the article the author puts evidences that the violent employees at the work place have had a history of workplace violence. He talks about ways to prevent workplace violence by adequately pre-screening candidates before employment. Author also suggests and supports to train HR and OH managers in conflict management so that the firms can prevent hiring potentially violent employees.
- Brillinger, Ray. “Warning: Hazardous workplace personalities.” Canadian HR Reporter. May 23, 2005. Vol. 18, Iss 10; pg 10, 1pg.
This article discusses the use of HR as a conflict resolution system. HR’s functionality is split into the following functions: Peacekeeper, Intervener, Coach, Policy Advisor, Disciplinarian, and Role Model. It also discusses how HR should evaluate themselves in the role needed in order to fulfill the conflict resolution system. This is important to ensure that HR is performing the appropriate function to resolve the conflict.
- Brinkman, R., Kirschner, R. (2002). Dealing with people you can't stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst. 2 nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
The authors identify 10 specific behaviors that people exhibit as their worst qualities. Following the definition of each characteristic, he provides information to the reader to have an understanding of the motives driving the behaviors. Then the authors discuss the use of communication to avoid escalated conflict, focusing on cooperation and listening skills. In conclusion, the authors discuss the best way to manipulate the bad behaviors to benefit both people.
- Brushfield, R. (2005). The disposition deposition. Lawyer, Vol. 19, p55.
This Article gives advice about how to handle confrontational colleagues by identifying their interpersonal conflicts and by doing that separating their behavior from their personality. Also, the article stresses that the people have a motivation for any action and if you can understand that you can meet in the middle.
- Cava, R. (2004) Dealing with Difficult People: How to Deal with Nasty Customers, Demanding Bosses and Annoying Co-workers. New York: Firefly Books.
Academically written, this book defines difficult people and provides information on how to recognize their behaviors. Then she covers the basic skills of communication. To complete the book she devotes one chapter each to the job roles where you have to interact with difficult people and how the reader should handle the situation; i.e. one chapter on clients, supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, and managers.
- Crowe, S.A. (1999). Since Strangling Isn't an Option...: Dealing with Difficult People--Common Problems and Uncommon Solutions. New York: Perigee Book.
This book approaches conflict management as an internal process in place of external operation. The author writes about controlling the reader's expectations, moods, and awareness. The author then uses personality types to discuss behaviors that lead to conflicts. She highlights a model way of behaving in difficult situations and offers some common and uncommon advice for resolving clashes.
- De Cremer, D., & Dewitte, S. (2001). Self-control and cooperation: different
concepts, similar decisions? A question of the right perspective. The Journal of Psychology, (Volume 135, Issue 2; pp 133).
This article examines conflicts between individual's long-term and short-term goals and conflicts between individual and collective interests as well as mixed motive situations. Three factors are evaluated; group identification, self-efficacy, and mutual trust. Even though there were some differences, these findings were easily transferred to self-control situations as well as to mixed motive situations.
- Gill, Lucy.(1999). How to Work with Just About Anyone: A 3-Step Solution for Getting Difficult People to Change. Fireside.
This is a must-have book for workers, managers, coaches and anyone who interacts
with "challenging" people in their life. Every office has them: the
ever-complaining colleague...the co-worker who is constantly late for meetings...the
boss who either blows up at you or blows you off...or the one person who drives
everyone else totally crazy. Lucy Gill presents a new approach that is simple,
fresh and extremely useful for dealing with problem people and the negative
behavior at work instead of the conventional methods -- like repeated warnings,
threats, and heartfelt discussions. Whether you're just starting out in your
career or you already have an office along the executive corridor, this book
provides the key to success, satisfaction, and sanity in the workplace.
- Godevenos, Ken. Dealing With Difficult Employees. Retrieved from the Web June 9, 2005.
If you supervise people, you will eventually come across someone who you would classify as being difficult. These people have the ability to make your life very uncomfortable. When working with groups, they can hurt the team spirit or cause the group to isolate them. No matter what happens, the productivity of your unit will be less than it could be. Understanding why difficult employees are the way they are is one big step in handling them when your paths cross.
- Hackley, Susan. (2004). When Live Gives you Lemons: How to Deal with Difficult
This article discusses strategies for dealing with difficult people. Through
negotiation and open lines of communication some conflicts can be resolved
but the author believes that some situations call for a firm “no” and that
not every conflict can be resolved so that both parties are content but all
conflicts should be addressed with open communication and mutual respect.
- Hagen Showers, Julie. Managing The Difficult Employee. Retrieved from the Web June 9, 2005. SHRM Information Center, SHRM White Papers (November 2002).
Managing employee performance is the most important part of a manager's job. A manager, by definition, does not get paid for what he does, but for what the employees who work for him do. Recognizing this, good managers do everything in their power to help employees succeed. Yet, even for successful managers, some employees are simply more difficult than others. This article looks at some of the most common types of difficult employee behaviors, and offers constructive suggestions for increasing the effectiveness through performance management.
- Isler, Edward Lee, Ray, Steven W., Bodley, Michelle L. Personal Liability and Employee Discipline. Retrieved from the Web June 8, 2005. SHRM Legal Report (September / October 2000, Reviewed August 2002).
As human resource professionals are well aware, a growing number of employees are pursuing litigation to solve a vast array of workplace grievances. These grievances include alleged discriminatory performance evaluations, transfers, and terminations; denied promotions; denial of family and medical leave; or failure to pay overtime wages. The personal and often emotional nature of workplace litigation has also led many former employees to target not merely the company but also specific managers or co-workers with legal claims and hostile retaliation. By permitting the employee to respond, managers often can defuse potentially explosive situations with difficult employees.
- Keating, C.J. (1984). Dealing with Difficult People: How You Can Come Out on Top in Personality Conflicts, New York: Paulist Press.
The author in this book focuses mostly on personality profiles using the Myers-Briggs Personality type Indicator. He believes that most conflict arise from differences in personalities. To achieve better relationships, he contends it is important to know your type and those with whom you interact with daily. The author states it is the responsibility of the reader to initiate adjustments to conflicts, since difficult people rarely will admit to being difficult.
- Lynn , M. (2000). How to manage your boss. Management Today, pp 66.
This piece of writing will give you helpful strategies that will enable you to build a better relationship with your manager. The most important strategy is that you should understand/communicate with your boss on a regular basis. This article categorizes three types of bosses, the first type, is the difficult boss, second type, is the average boss who is trying to keep their head above the water, and the third type is the dynamic wise and fair boss. Once you've determined which category your boss falls under you can manage them more efficiently.
- Pincus, Marilyn. (2004). Managing Difficult People: A Survival guide for handling any employee. Cincinnati : Adams Media Corporation.
This book gives you the tools you need to cope with all kinds of difficult employees. From sneaky slackers to resident office tormentors, this guide helps you identify and deal with specific personality types. The author asks to put an end to office strife by taking charge of all the difficult situations that come your way by following these positive, proactive guidelines for targeting behaviors of unruly employee that upsets your office nest and affects the morale of your entire staff.
- Shanon, Marilyn & Isenhour, Deborah. (2004) Listening to transcend conflict.
Listening Professional. Vol. 3 Issue 1.
In this article the author describes a model for dealing with conflict through
listening and use of human energy. Through listening and openness in difficult
situations most conflicts can be resolved in a peaceful manner. By controlling
anger and other negative feeling and being open to the opinions of others communication
- Thornton, B.,Paul. (2002). Managing Difficult People . Excerpt from book, The Triangles of Management and Leadership.
The authors identify 3 different types of difficult people and states that dealing with difficult people is a challenge. He then mentions that difficult people absorb a lot of a manager's time and attention. Thus it is important to understand them and develop techniques to help them be more productive and effective in doing their job. Following the definition of each type, he advises the managers on how to deal with each type to create a win-win situation.