Does the problem lie with the difficult performer or with you?

If the difficult performer has created a 'mess', that is, they have said or done something that has affected others in the organisation in some harmful or hurtful way then that person needs to be held accountable for their actions. There are lots of ways to do this but the trick lies with the approach taken by whoever is the first to respond.

Working 'with', being authoritative, is a skill. Building and maintaining relationships is not knowledge but a skill.

Working 'to', being an authoritarian is, from my experience, a lot of bluff and bravado with little compassion and for most rejecting the behaviour and the person who caused harm.

If you live in the 'to' world the problem lies with the difficult performer. In the 'with' world the trick is to use effective communication skills to enable things to be different. Not ignoring the problem but tackling it head on. As managers it is imperative we hold people using questions that challenge the person who has caused harm. The trick is not to answer the questions ourselves but to use silence so that it stays with the person to whom it was directed.

If, as managers, our behaviour is not terribly different to that of the offender then we are modelling what is acceptable. 

So what is your behaviour saying about you? How's your own integrity?

When you are in a good space regarding your own practice then it is much easier to put the pressure back on the difficult performer.

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Comment by Rhonda Willis on February 10, 2012 at 9:16

Great post Geoff. I agree wholeheartedly with your "silence" approach, allowing the difficult employee to say those words out aloud can often give them a whole new outlook on things...on the flip side, it is also good practice to constantly evaluate our own methods.

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