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Dealing With Difficult Behaviour At Work

Dealing With Difficult Behaviour at Work

Dealing With Difficult Behaviour at Work

Every day, your organisation strives to implement its plans, designed to achieve its goals, in accordance with a set of definite standards.

But some people in the organisation, disagree with the goals, or they fail to comply with the plan, or their work performance is in some way below standard.

We find these people difficult.

How can you deal with such difficult behaviour?

Here are the steps.

1. Change the environment

When making an intervention with a difficult person, it is important to get the timing right.

Don't criticise the person in front of an audience. If you criticise a person in public, then they will respond badly and become more stubborn.

You will always find it easier to change a person's mind, if nobody else is present.

2. Appreciate and adjust

Recognise that the other person probably considers that he/she is acting correctly.

It is usually counterproductive to directly attack a person's view, since a direct attack always triggers a negative emotional response.

Instead, adjust yourself and try to appreciate their right to their view, (even though you intend to try to change it).

3. Build rapport and empathy

Start the conversation by raising the subject and asking them for their opinion. Listen without too much interruption.

Don't argue straight away, instead empathise with what they say.

Use the words, "I understand..."

It might be useful to start writing notes on what they say.

4. Defuse the emotion first

Do not allow your negative emotions to show. Keep your language polite, non-emotional and clear of any derogatory opinions that you may have, about the character or performance of the person.

Remain cool, objective and professional at all times.

5. Explore the root cause of behaviour

Now we have dealt with the negative emotions, (both theirs and yours) it is time to dig deeper into the factual elements that lie behind the conflict situation.

  • Find the facts apart from the feelings.
  • Find the facts apart from the opinions.
  • Find the facts apart from the accusations.

Everything you do at work should be based upon; a logical and rational evaluation of all the available facts.

6. Focus on the future outcome wanted

Now you have identified the facts, you use them to construct a proposed corrective action.

Ask yourselves:

  • What needs to happen, to correct the current situation?
  • How can we make it happen?

Don't argue about the past.

If you're going to argue, then argue only about the future.

It is pointless arguing about what HAS already happened, and who is to blame.

The aim of every conversation should be to assist in the achievement of the team's goals for the future.

7. Develop an agreed solution

The two parties must talk, in order to agree a change that will most likely result in the successful achievement of the organisation's goals.

The discussion should not be personalised.

It should be rationalised.

Find a rational solution that will allow the organisation's goals to be most easily achieved.

8. Highlight agreement and next steps

When you have the agreed change in verbal form, write it down.

If you don't write it down, there will be disagreements about what was agreed.

Make a detailed note in writing and, if you think it necessary, have the other person read it.

You might even ask them to endorse the document with their signature, as a correct record of their agreement.

9. Inform others where appropriate

Depending on the context, the fact that you had the conversation - when, where, who was present, what was said and what was agreed - should all be recorded and kept.

You may wish to share this information with senior people, and you may wish to give a copy to the "difficult person".

10. Judge your success and learning

You will not be certain that the conversation was successful until days or weeks after.

You will only be able to judge by the results.

One of three things will happen:

  • The person changes their behaviour and the problem is fully resolved
  • The person partially changes their behaviour and the problem is partially resolved
  • The person does not change and reneges on the agreement, and then you have to start all over again at point one. But his time, you will be armed with a list of sanctions.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Conflict Management and Handling Difficult People

  • How to Deal with Lazy People at Work
    Working with a lazy person is not only frustrating, it can also mean that you have to take on their work as well as your own. Follow these key points to get them to do their share of the work.
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  • How to Handle a Complaint
    It is vital that all staff are taught how to handle complaints in a professional manner. Follow this six step method for handling complaints successfully and improve your overall customer service.
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  • How to Deal with Conflict Situations
    Conflict is inevitable when dealing with people who do not think or act the way you believe to be correct. Learning how to handle conflict situations is important.
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  • Management skills training - Giving constructive criticism
    Giving constructive criticism Giving constructive criticism is one of the most important skills for the leader/ manager. Constructive criticism is criticism of a person's behaviour, work performance or idea, which is perceived by the receiver, to be more like help, or friendly guidance, rather than "a telling off". Constructive criticis...
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  • Using Reason to Handle Difficult People
    If you wish to get on with difficult people, then appeal to their sense of reason. Treat all problems, and all people according to the principles of reason.
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