Talk About Behavior When Dealing With Difficult People

by on June 29, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Don’t go After Attitude When Dealing With Difficult People

Now, HR has said, “This is attitude. Dealing with difficult people has to do with attitude. And you can’t manage attitude.” Yeah, the attorneys tell us that. No. Talk to any manager. They’ll tell you the difference between good and bad. They’ll tell you about destructive communication versus positive communication.

So, what do we do? Don’t even go after the attitude when dealing with difficult people. Don’t complain to HR about attitude. Don’t ever go out to an employee and say, “You have an attitude problem” when you’re really talking about gossip. Get the work “attitude” out of your vocabulary. Attitude is not measurable for dealing with difficult people. So, managers really in any handbook – in the evaluation, the word “attitude” is gone. And substitute it with behavior. Go after the behavior. Now, if you get the response, “Well, it’s not fair. It’s not fair.” Work isn’t fair. It’s not meant to be fair. The closest we come to fair at work is consistent. What you owe is the communication of not just performance standards, which we’re okay at but behavior standards, which we’re lousy at.

So, when you talk destructive communication, that’s not a performance piece. It’s a behavior piece. So separate the two. Can I establish a behavior policy? Oh, yeah. This should be 50% of anybody’s job. This is – should be in every single job description. It should be on every evaluation. I’ve even seen this in a union operation in a negotiated union contract, a behavior standard. Maintain positive work atmosphere by acting and communicating in a manner so that you get along with customers, clients, coworkers and the boss. You’ve got an employee that’s whining at you. This is destructive communication. And it’s been tolerated. They may have been around a long time. If I’m going to hold people accountable to their behavior, to positive communication – if I’m going to be dealing with difficult people and their destructive communication, I’ve got to be able to define what it is, what is it that’s driving me crazy.

Most people get fired not for their performance, it’s for their behavior. And I don’t want to wait to get to that level if I can help it. But if I’m going to hold people accountable, I’ve got to be able to communicate the standard before dealing with difficult people. Gossip in the workplace is not subjective. It’s very objective if we make it that way. So, I’m going to communicate, “Hey, this is our behavior standard. At least 50% of your job is your ability.” Some jobs are 90% behavior.

But think business-to-business. As customers anywhere, some people act like we’re doing them a favor. I’ve got choices. Employees have choices. Customers have choices. So, this behavior piece really becomes critical. And companies that decide, “I’m going to go after this”, that there is a bar, a line that they can’t cross because it’s just destructive to the whole team.

Edited Remarks From “Gossip, Gab, and the Grapevine: How to Neutralize Its Negative Impact” by Hunter Lott

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