As a leader, one of your roles is drawing the absolute best out of the people on your team. There’s nothing specific to a particular industry or business that makes this easier or more difficult. Humans are amazingly complex and beautifully individualistic which means when you are addressing challenges, one size does not fit all! In a collaborative environment, you can’t afford discord. The challenge is always the same: how to cope with difficult people?
This does not always mean that the discord is resulting from a disgruntled team member. Sometimes, the discord could actually be a client. Don’t expect that addressing the situation with an employee or client will automatically bring results. Remember that refusing to deal with the problem isn’t going to make it go away.
Trying to change people or clients might not bring the result you want. They have to want to change and often, they don’t! It is always FAR easier to change yourself and how you think about/deal with the difficult person.
Remember, in some cases, you are dealing with manipulators, abusers, bullies, and otherwise overly-aggressive people who act this way–NOT because of some underlying fear, insecurity, or past abuse–but because this type of unacceptable behavior allows them to get what they want.
Note: if you think that having the last word means you win, then with some of these personality types, you are setting yourself up for the unending argument. Ask yourself if this is really a battle worth fighting?
I highly recommend you check out my previous episodes on building team trust. Episodes 19, 20, 21 and 22 are going to be really helpful in assisting you with establishing a foundation of trust for your team.
Dr. George K. Simon’s term for manipulative people is covert aggressives: “They’re the kind of people who fight hard for everything they want but they do their best to conceal their aggressive nature.” They aren’t just assertive; they seek to attain their goals illicitly and without revealing their true goals.
- Always want to win
- Seek to be on top of every situation and in control of every interaction
- Do everything possible to maintain plausible deniability
- Quickly identify & take advantage of the weaknesses of those who stand in their way
- Have undeveloped consciences that allow them to pursue their goals by any means (right or wrong)
- View people as pawns in the game (or contest!) of life.”
Four main steps to dealing with difficult people:
- Get to know them so you can understand what they are like
- Identify their most common manipulative techniques
- Figure out your own defensive weaknesses
- Determine what you can do differently & better in advance of being confronted with their methods
The main tactics of the covert-aggressive are:
- Denial (“I didn’t mean that!”)
- Selective inattention (“I have no idea what you’re talking about”)
- Rationalization (“Oh, well, that’s because …”)
- Diversion (Q: “Are you planning on firing me?”; diversionary A: “I think your sales are as good as ever”)
- Lying (usually in such a way that you cannot prove they’re lying)
- Covert intimidation (“Boy, it sure is hard to find a new job these days”)
- Guilt-tripping (“My desire to abuse alcohol sure quiets down when you’re around, honey”)
- Shaming(“I think any parent who truly cares about their child would…”)
- Playing the victim role (“Everybody hates me!”)
- Vilifying the victim (often in conjunction w/playing the victim, “That’s because you hate me and you’re always saying bad things about me!”)
- Playing the servant role (“I’m doing these things because they’re what God/country/company would want me to do”)
- Seduction (“You’re doing a great job”; unsaid, though, is that I’m still going to replace you with my friend)
- Blaming others (“You’re not supporting me enough; that’s why I’m drinking again”)
- Minimization (“It’s not that bad”)
Six Steps To Dealing With Manipulative People:
- Improve your ability to judge character
- Identify your traits that are exploitable such as naivete, being too self-conscious, having low self-esteem, being too intellectual over relational or vice-versa, and being emotional dependent
- Focus on fixing, changing, & training yourself, not the manipulator
- Label and address inappropriate behavior
- Judge actions rather than trying to reveal hidden intentions
- Create and own your personal agenda and then stick to it
One of the most important things to remember is that covert-aggressives value winning above all else, so attempt to devise & propose win-win scenarios. These agreements must be reasonable, “appropriate, reliable, verifiable and enforceable.” Expect them to try to weasel out of their end of the bargain and be prepared to enforce consequences.
And finally, act quickly and decisively before the covert-aggressive really gets rolling. If they’re 3/4 of the way to their goal, it’ll be harder to derail them than if they’re just getting started. As soon as you notice manipulative behavior, name it as such and plan your clear, open, and honest actions to ensure your reasonable and fair goals are not subverted by the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
When it’s personal relationships with these difficult personality types, you might have to conclude that the best option is to cut-off the relationship. You might feel trapped with a toxic personality at work, but even there you have an option. Life is too short to spend around mean, toxic people, so start looking for another job.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Now, go lead like someone you would want to follow!