Difficult People and Difficult Conversations

Challenging Employee Situations

Dealing with Challenging Employees

Dan Springer, CEO of Responsys, speaks with graduate students at Stanford about dealing with difficult people. He shares an interesting view – one that most of us will recognize from experience.

Deal with People Head On

Do not delay facing the situation and do not try soft workarounds like dropping hints to the person who is a problem and hope they will somehow change. 

Reason #1

The first reason for taking a problem head on is to help the employee. It’s never fun to have to be direct about a negative situation with a person. However, great leaders manage with courage, which requires that they step out of their personal comfort zone and professionally address a problem in a direct and timely manner. Failing to manage with courage hurts the individual. When the leader doesn’t directly address a problem, the person with that problem will carry it into the future without fulling understanding the implications. A good leader thinks about the future of the people they lead. That means they take a long-range perspective and are willing to help individuals develop their potential by coaching them up in areas where they are deficient. 

Reason #2

The second reason for taking a problem head on is to help the team. Failing to manage with courage and address a problem when it needs to be addressed creates an unhealthy organization. Teams organically adapt to accommodate each other’s behavior and work styles. When a person is deficient or has unacceptable behaviors, and is never corrected, the team’s work-life social evolution will factor those behaviors in and inherently create sub-cultural accommodations. In other words, bad behavior or sub-par competence is now being built into the culture, which means it will become sustained. It also means that morale will be lower than it should be and team performance will not be as high as it could be. The culture becomes accepting of a co-dependent atmosphere.

To help everyone, involved leaders need be direct and deal with problems head on.