Manage Conflict: How to Deal with Difficult Employees

Emotional Safety, Leadership Development, Step Up

3 Strategies to Collaborate with Difficult Employees 

Turn Disruption into Harmony: How to Lead Through Conflict

We’ve all been there: the coworker who thrives on drama, the boss with a feedback flamethrower. Difficult employees can throw a wrench into even the most well-oiled team. But fear not, collaboration warriors! Here’s a guide, inspired by our Amazon Top 10 business book “Step Up, Lead in Six Moments That Matter,” to help you navigate these tricky situations and build a thriving, collaborative team.

The Permissive Approach: Diffusing the Minefield

Let’s face it, initiating a conversation with a difficult coworker can feel like walking a tightrope. Our book highlights the “permissive approach,” a strategy that minimizes risk and opens the door to productive dialogue.

Here’s the key: give them control. By asking when and where they’d feel comfortable talking, you show respect and create a safe space for open communication. It’s a subtle shift that can make a world of difference.

3 Power Plays for Productive Conversations

Ready to tackle those crucial conversations? Here are 3 permissive approach strategies to consider:

Schedule Savvy: Instead of a surprise ambush, ask, “If I had a potentially sensitive topic to discuss, what time and place would work best for you?” This acknowledges their comfort level and opens the door for a productive exchange.

Brainstorming Buddies: Frame yourself as a collaborator, not a critic. Try, “Maybe I’m off base, but I see a roadblock. How about we brainstorm solutions together? When and where would you be free to chat?”

External Echo: Sometimes, a gentle nudge can be helpful. Suggest, “There’s some buzz about how you come across. Interested in hearing more? When and where could we discuss it privately?”

Trust Your Gut: Timing is Everything

Remember, good leadership is as much about intuition as head knowledge. Albert Einstein himself said so! If your gut tells you the timing is off, trust it. Reschedule! Crafting responses like, “Thanks for your flexibility. I need to gather some info first. How about tomorrow or the day after?” demonstrates respect and creates a more productive environment.

Beyond the Binary: A Shift in Mindset

Difficult conversations don’t have to be a win-lose situation. Shift your focus to finding the most respectful way to approach the issue. This mindset shift is crucial for leaders who want to effectively engage with challenging employees.

The Takeaway: Collaboration Through Communication

Great leaders master the art of navigating difficult discussions. By adopting these strategies, you can transform conflict into opportunities for growth and collaboration. Remember, the goal is to build trust, not just deal with the situation. With the right approach, even the most challenging interactions can become catalysts for positive change and a more collaborative, harmonious team.

Ready to Build a Culture of Emotional Safety®?

Learn more about our interactive, online learning experience designed to give you and your team the knowledge and tools you’ve been looking for to build a culture of trust and open communication. Learn More. 

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