Tips and Techniques to Manage Difficult People

12 Steps You Can Use to Deal with Employee Concerns

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When you spend time with your individual staff members (which I hope you do) then it’s inevitable that that you’ll discussionhear about their concerns and problems.

These could be on a human level; however they’re more likely to be on a business level.

Believe me, I’ve been there, I understand the challenges. And these 12 steps will help.

Whether it’s a human or a business problem, the same rules apply.

  1. Don’t get hooked

Don’t react to a concern. It’s very easy to react with – ‘Here we go again, the same old moans and groans. They’re always on about this and there’s nothing I can do.’

If you react this way, then it’ll show on your face and in your tone of voice. The team member then thinks – ‘What’s the point; he’s not interested in my problems, why should I bother.’

Get into thinking mode and stay out of it emotionally. Concentrate on listening non-defensively and actively.

If the team member makes disparaging and emotional remarks – don’t rise to the bait.

  1. Listen– listen – listen

Look and sound like you’re listening. When face to face you need to look interested, nod your head and keep good eye contact. Over the phone you need to make the occasional ‘Uh-Huh – I see.’

I’ve seen managers, when faced with a problem from a team member, start to do something else, like work on the computer. And I’ve heard them say – ‘It’s okay, I can do two things at once, I can listen to you and work on the computer.’

No you can’t, and the message your team member gets is – ‘My problem isn’t that important, my manager just isn’t interested.’

When you’re spending time with your people you need to give them your full attention. You need to look them in the eye, concentrate on them and make them feel that what they say is important and deserves your attention.

And if you don’t have time at that particular moment, make an appointment for a more suitable time for both of you.

  1. Write it down

As well as looking interested in your team member’s concern, it’s a good idea to write it down.

I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking – ‘I’ll remember that when I get back to the office and I’ll check on it.’

However, one person I was with said – ‘You won’t do anything about that Alan because you won’t remember it.’ From that point on I wrote things down.

  1. Repeat back

It’s also a good idea to paraphrase what the team member has said. It ensures your understanding and lets them know you’ve been listening.

  1. Use names

It may seem like a simple thing but it’s very important.

You could say in response to a concern – ‘I’ll speak to the accounts department about that.’

It would be far better to say – ‘I’ll speak to the accounts department about that Susan, thank you for bringing it to my attention.’

A person’s name is one of the warmest sounds they ever hear. It says – ‘I recognise you as an individual.’

However, I suggest you don’t overdo it as it may come across as patronising.

  1. Take ownership

This is the same as dealing with an external customer.

Your team members do not want to hear you say – ‘That’s nothing to do with me, that’s the sales departments fault.’

Do not blame someone or something else. It may be the responsibility of the sales department, but it needs to be explained in a logical and factual way.

  1. Watch out for people’s egos

If your team member is really wound up about something, let them get it off their chest. Don’t interrupt and don’t argue.

Don’t jump in with solutions and try to solve the problem then and there.

And for goodness sake, don’t ever say – ‘Calm down.’

  1. See it from their point of view

You might find it hard to understand what they’re on about; however put yourself in their shoes.

If you were doing their job every day, how would you feel?

You might even consider that their concern is something fairly trivial and you think – ‘What’s the big deal, I’ll fix it right away.’

It is a big deal for the team member and they want you to appreciate it.

You don’t necessarily need to agree with them; however you need to accept the fact that it’s a problem for them.

  1. Be very aware of your body language and voice tone

We often exacerbate a situation without realising it. Our tone of voice and our body language can often contradict what we’re saying.

We may be saying ‘sorry’ however our tone and our body language may be communicating our frustration and annoyance.

People listen with their eyes and will set greater credence on how you say something rather than what you say.

It’s also important to use a warm tone of voice when dealing with a team member’s problem. This doesn’t mean being ‘nicey-nicey’ or behaving in a non-assertive manner.

It’s about showing that you’re interested in what they’re saying and that you care.

  1. Deal with their feelings, and then deal with their problem

Using empathy is a very effective way to deal with a person’s feelings. Empathy isn’t about agreement, only acceptance of what the team member is saying and feeling.

Basically the message is – ‘I understand how you feel.’ 

This really has to be a genuine response, the person will realise if you’re insincere and they’ll feel patronised.

  1. Under promise, over deliver

Whatever way you respond to a team member’s problem, do not make a rod for your own back. It’s often tempting in a difficult situation to make promises that are difficult to keep.

We say things like – ‘I’ll get this sorted this afternoon Paul and I’ll phone you back.’

It may be extremely difficult to get it sorted this afternoon.

Far better to say – ‘I’ll get this sorted by tomorrow afternoon Paul.’ Then phone Paul back the same afternoon or early the next morning and he’ll think you’re great.

  1. You don’t win them all

Remember, everyone gets a little mad from time to time, and you won’t always be able to placate or resolve your team member’s problem.

There is no magic formula.

However the majority of people in this world are reasonable people, and if you treat them as such, then they’re more likely to respond in a positive manner. (And make your life a lot easier)

And there is more in this book to help you. The one on the right is the eBook version. Just click on the book for where to buy.





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Posted in: Difficult people, Leadership, Management, Motivation

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