Photo by Anthony Tran

One of the most stressful parts of life is dealing with people that have high-conflict personalities. And, if you have to manage one, your life just got worse.

It is a leader’s job to manage and decide whether these types of team members can grow or have to go. In a moment, I’ll share a few simple steps for making “grow or go” decisions.

Upcoming Webinar. Last year in my article One Narcissist You Want Off Your Team I described one of the worst types of personalities you might encounter as described by Bill Eddy in his fabulous book, 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life.

challenging people

In a few weeks on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM EST, I will be hosting a webinar called Managing People Who Have High Conflict Personalities.

People with high conflict personalities are increasing in number and often have a negative impact on the workplace and can be very difficult to manage. If this topic might be helpful to you in your role, please consider registering by clicking on the link above.

Recognizing and meeting with Challenging People. The first step of dealing with challenging people on your team is sharpening your self-awareness. For example, pay attention to energy equilibrium – does a person leave people around them with more or less energy after an interaction. Pay attention to these types of symptoms and also what you hear from others as well as what you see.

Once you have identified a person on your team that is negatively affecting the work culture and collective outcomes, it is time for you to talk to them. In his book Leading the Unleadable Alan Willett nicely goes through steps to prepare for this meeting, holding the meeting, and then making a decision as to whether the person can grow or has to go.challenging people

After you have prepared yourself for the meeting, here are Willett’s 10 Action Steps:

  1. Meet person in a private place, face-to-face.
  2. Deliver your key message in less than two minutes. Message should clearly describe the behavior they need to address and its impact on others and the organization. Message should be delivered respectfully, factually, and with empathy.
  3. Wait patiently and quietly for response.
  4. Be in the moment and open.
  5. Listen to understand.
  6. Reflect by telling person what you heard and asking for confirmation. Do not argue.
  7. Discuss points that need clarity for you.
  8. Set expectations. This is when you make it clear what you expect from the person. Ask them to confirm what they heard from you.
  9. Ask them for action steps.
  10. Summarize meeting and ask for confirmation.

Decision – Grow or Go. After you have had your session with the person and time has gone by to see if they are progressing, Willett suggests you answer six questions about the person-

  1. Has the individual shown a willingness and ability to take critical input and use it for self-improvement?
  2. How well liked is the individual by the rest of the organization?
  3. Is the person able to raise the ability of others through collaboration?
  4. Do the technical skills and experience of the individual fit the needs of the team?
  5. Are these skills beneficial to the future needs of this or any other team in the organization?
  6. How likely is it you can acquire the skills this individual has from outside the organization in a timely manner?

To guide you with a grow or go decision, Willett suggests using a table or grid to tabulate scores for the six questions.

Decision Choices. Willett reminds us we have seven choices we can make –

  1. Do nothing but prepare for fall-out.
  2. Continue with corrective action and person holds onto same position.
  3. Modify the job to take advantage of strengths, reduce impact of weaknesses.
  4. Move person to a different position on Team.
  5. Move person to different Team within the organization.
  6. Hire an external expert to coach the individual to improve.
  7. Remove the person from the team and organization.

This process can work for most challenging people. If you would like to learn more about dealing with the most challenging, high conflict personalities, please consider attending our upcoming webinar called Managing People Who Have High Conflict Personalities.