Canadian Pizza Magazine

Keeping your cool with difficult people

By By Rhonda Savage DDS   

Features Business and Operations Staffing

rhondasavageMay 27, 2009 – People
today have a short fuse. Everyone is stressed. And when people are stressed,
they can become difficult to be around.

are, you’ve worked with at least one difficult person in your organization. You
recognize the behaviors of a difficult person, such as a bad attitude, apathy,
difficulty handling change, and terrible customer service. Difficult people
give you the silent treatment or worse, they can be verbally aggressive.

if you don’t address this kind of behavior, one of two things will happen. Employees
will become resentful and think less of you as a leader or employees will start
modeling the behavior of the person who is not being corrected.


important to understand, there’s only one reason anyone behaves in an
unacceptable manner: Because they get away with it! So, who’s responsible for
difficult people? The answer is anyone who tolerates them. Every time you give
in to a difficult person, every time you choose not to confront him or her, you
allow a difficult person to continue this rude behavior.

do difficult people in your business look like? 
Often, they are the ones who get the better schedule. They may come in late
or depart early, leaving their work for others to finish. They might take a
longer lunch, talk on their cell phone or pay their personal bills during work

how can you change this situation? Confrontation is one answer. Unfortunately,
it can be hard for anyone to address this issue. However, it’s important to
understand that dealing with the issue will facilitate a more harmonious
atmosphere, leading to increased productivity, improved morale and a healthier
bottom line.

need to set boundaries, expectations and guidelines, and then hold the person
accountable for his or her behaviors. Here are some tips, whether you are an
employee dealing with a difficult supervisor, a worker dealing with a
co-worker, or a manager dealing with a challenging employee:

Owner or Manager
to Employee:
you ever had an employee who was demanding, condescending, abrupt, tearful,
insecure, and high maintenance – and yet he or she did an excellent job? Were
you worried about losing him or her because he or she produced great work? Just
because someone does great work doesn’t make him or her a good employee. If you
have a person whose behavior is affecting the morale and productivity in the office,
and you’ve already coached the employee on the issue, this person needs a
formal corrective review.

employee should be given a copy of the corrective review; a signed copy is
placed in his employee file. Let the employee know the specific behavior you
need to have changed, your clearly defined expectations, and a time frame he or
she has to work within. Have a follow up meeting within a designated time
period to give the employee the feedback he or she needs. Be sure to provide
clear oversight.

Employee to
What if the difficult person is your boss or
manager? Approach your employer or supervisor first by asking: “I need to talk
with you about something.  Is now a good
time?” If not, schedule a time to talk. Begin by expressing your intention and
your motives. Explain your concern about a loss of business and unhappy
clients, and that your intentions are to help make the workplace not only
productive, but one that exceeds the clients’ expectations.

approach is to talk about how certain behaviors in the office are decreasing
efficiency. Explain that you’d like to talk about ways to improve the systems
in the office. By first addressing the issues as though you’re tackling a
problem or a system issue, your supervisor or employer will not be defensive.
Always be tactful, professional, calm, and polite. Ask your employer or manager
for their goals and offer to give suggestions to help meet those goals.

the “feel, felt, found” method:
“Many of our customers feel uncomfortable when you speak to the other
employees; they’ve expressed how they’ve felt when you left the room.
I’ve found if I convey customer concerns to my supervisor that our sales
have increased.”

Employee to
  If you have a problem with a co-worker, the
best course of action is to go to that person directly. Do not talk about the
issues with your fellow co-workers behind the other person’s back! Go to the
person privately and tell them about it.

are three steps to this. Let the person know you’d like to talk about something
that’s been bothering you. Ask him or her, “Is this a good time”. Describe the
behavior with dates, names and times. Be specific. Begin by saying:  “I’d like to talk with you about this. This
is how I felt when….” Speak only for yourself and how the behavior affects you.
Describe what you would like to see changed. Try to resolve the issue first
personally and privately. If the situation does not change, request a meeting
between yourself, the other person and your employer.

can choose his or her attitude. Each day, when someone walks out the front door
to go to work, that person has a choice in how her day will play out. You can’t
always choose the people who surround you but you can try to make them aware of
their behaviors. If you have a difficult person in your life, set the
boundaries, explain your expectations, and then hold that person
accountable.  Be calm when you’re doing
this! The person who is calm and asks the questions is the one in control.

Dr. Rhonda Savage is an internationally
acclaimed speaker and CEO for a well-known practice management and consulting
business. As past President of the Washington State Dental Association, she is
active in organized dentistry and has been in private practice for more than 16
years. Dr. Savage is a noted speaker on practice management, women’s issues,
communication and leadership, and zoo dentistry. For more information on her
speaking, visit,
or e-mail



Print this page


Stories continue below