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Dealing with Difficult People When You Just Want to Get Your Work Done

TL:DR: People can be difficult to work with, they’re all different. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is never going to work. Take the time to discover more about the person you’re dealing with and adapt your methods to fit.

Ah, working with other people. When you’ve got the right team, it can be an amazing experience, where everything gels, goes smoothly and you’re all psyched about what you’re creating.

On the other hand, working with the wrong team or certain individuals can be a nightmare. Constant excuses, delays, miscommunications, and the ever-growing feeling of doom as you rue the day you ever laid eyes on the project.

So what do you do when you’ve got a team working for you, but the person above is less like a well-oiled cog in a machine and more like batteries that are just about to give up the ghost, slowing you down or just halting you in your tracks.

We’ve put together some handy hints on dealing with difficult personalities, and how you can structure your projects to get the very best from your efforts.

Help – They Don’t Listen to a Word I Say!

We’ve all had or heard of someone like this. You think you’ve got everything explained and in order, and not only do they totally get the wrong end of the stick, but they have no desire to stop and let you explain it to them.

Dealing with difficult people means you need to understand their personality (beyond ‘rotten’) and what their motivators are. Once you’ve got an idea of their type, you can structure your reports, advice, and communication to fit.

Using the DISC method, you can basically split personalities into four main types:

  • Dominant
  • Influential
  • Steady
  • Conscientious

Each of these can be split further into sub-categories or ‘Archetypes’ (there is some overlap from one to the other in some cases, where people display traits in more than one personality type).

Evaluating someone and determining their personality type will help you to understand what motivates them, what irritates them, how they best process information – and what is going to come to a dead end with them.

For example: If you’re dealing with an ‘Influencer’ who falls into the ‘Influential’ archetype, they may be outgoing and confident, building momentum and stubbornly refusing to listen to outside ideas. Gently leading this type with enthusiastic responses to work and making them believe they’ve had the idea you’re trying to get across will meet more success than trying to tell them, “This is what we should do.”

All I hear is “We need to do this!” but They Don’t Understand What We’ve Done.

It can be really difficult to know how to get information across to someone, especially if they’re not involved in the day-to-day technical side of the work, and just want to see the final results.

There are a number of different approaches you can take to make this easier, although again – it’s going to depend on the sort of person you’re dealing with.

For example: A Partner in the business wants an update on current projects. They have no idea about the technical side, what’s involved and how much time it takes – they just want to see results now. They have a short attention span and are easily distracted.

In this case, we would recommend you DON’T hand them a long and detailed report – they’re not going to read it. Instead, put together a presentation with visuals (graphs are a good choice if you need to show a comparative time period, or pie charts if you want to detail a particular share), and instead of using jargon – make it short and simple. Essentially give them a Too Long, Didn’t Read (TL:DR) version.

On the other hand, if you’ve got someone who wants to know EVERYTHING, then you’ll want to create a nice report, full of details, facts and raw data they can process. However, we all know that this is often time consuming and impractical – the person more often than not has no idea how long it takes to do this, and what’s involved in getting it together.

Simplify it – give them a report with the key highlights and links to the raw data that they can pursue at their leisure. There’s no point wasting your time duplicating materials!

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting on Approval

Now this is a tricky one, especially if you’re a Manager and you’ve got a team waiting on you getting approval from higher ups before you can finish the task.

The point here is NOT to undermine the Manager or put yourself in the crosshairs – that never leads to anything good.

Firstly, you need to look at what you can do. Are you in charge of the internal processes? How much time are you giving your Manager to approve these things?

Evaluate what you’re currently doing and how long it’s taking your Manager to get back to you. If there are consistent delays, then you should think about restructuring the way you undertake your tasks, so these delays are taken into account.

For example: If you’re working on three blogs, a website update and social media posts for the month, and have been doing them one complete project at a time, getting approval before moving onto the next stage – you might want to look at what these tasks have in common (blogs, websites and social posts all need graphical content of some sort, and written text for example).

Have your team working on multiple parts, then once your Manager has time to approve each type of content, you can supply it.

However, if the problem comes from them not having time and doing everything at once – then you need to make sure you structure your time so that you’re not overwhelming the Manager – giving them 20 items to check when they’ve only got time for 5 isn’t going to help anyone.

If your problem comes from pinning the Manager down to actually do it, consider creating or using a company calendar and specifically scheduling time with the Manager to discuss the project and getting the approval tasks done in your meeting.

In any case, regardless of what you’re doing, you should always keep clear, concise notes that detail the date (and time if necessary), your name, what’s been done (and by whom), when the task was sent across for approval, by which channel and when. This isn’t just a case of covering your own arse (although it helps), but offers a clear chain of communication and responsibility, so if you’re not available one day or someone else needs to take on the project, they can see at a glance exactly what’s been done and when.

People Skills – We Have Them

If you’re bogged down in processes, unsure how to deal with a difficult team, or just want someone to help you manage your structure, we’ve got the tools, training, and techniques for you.

From downloadable schedules, calendars, and help-sheets, to training and consultation, or a team of experts ready to help you get your marketing and digital presence done right, Virtual Solutions Global has exactly what you need.

Get in touch today and discover the right people to work with!

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