How to Manage Difficult People at Work: A Basic Guide

One of the most challenging tasks for a manager or leader is learning how to manage difficult people at work. It requires an understanding of why certain behaviors occur and how to establish boundaries to effectively manage these individuals.

Additionally, having effective strategies for dealing with conflict constructively is essential when managing difficult people at work. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that while managing difficult people at work may be daunting, there are resources available that can equip you with the necessary tools needed to succeed in this role.

In this article, we will learn how to manage difficult people at work. We do this by emphasizing leadership skills that you can develop to handle difficult situations. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Behaviors of Difficult People at Work

It is a fact of life that there are difficult people in the workplace. These individuals can make work life much more challenging and stressful than it needs to be. It is important to understand why these people behave the way they do, and how best to deal with them.

Let’s look at different behaviors that may be considered as difficult to deal with in the workplace.


Unprofessional behavior in the workplace can be defined as any conduct that is not appropriate for a professional environment. Examples of unprofessional behavior include gossiping, using inappropriate language, making offensive jokes or comments, and displaying an uncooperative attitude.

Additionally, it can also involve being late to work or meetings without providing notice or failing to complete tasks on time. All of these behaviors are unacceptable in the workplace and should be addressed immediately by management.

Poor Communication

Poor communication is another form of difficult behavior that can hurt the workplace. This includes speaking over colleagues during conversations, not listening when others are talking, refusing to answer questions posed by other employees or customers, and sending emails with unclear instructions or expectations.

Managers need to ensure their team members understand how to communicate effectively so they don’t create misunderstandings between each other and with clients or customers.

Lack of Respect

Respectful behavior is essential in any professional setting. Unfortunately, some people may forget this basic rule from time to time.

This could manifest itself through interrupting coworkers while they’re speaking, taking credit for someone else’s work, disregarding opinions offered by others, and treating certain individuals differently than others based on race, gender, or religion.

Such actions show a lack of respect which needs to be addressed promptly if it becomes an issue within your organization.

Inappropriate Use of Technology

Inappropriate use of technology all falls under difficult behavior. Some examples are checking personal social media accounts during working hours, accessing websites unrelated to work duties, and using company tech for non-work related things (such as gaming).

As well as wasting valuable time, these activities could potentially put confidential information at risk if proper security protocols aren’t followed correctly. Therefore, everyone must understand what type of online activity is acceptable while using company equipment and resources before any issues arise due to misuse

Understanding Why Employees Have Difficult Behavior

Employees may display difficult behavior in the workplace due to a variety of reasons. These can include feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, or unappreciated.

Other causes could be poor communication between employees and management, lack of trust in leadership, unclear expectations or job roles, or an overall toxic work environment.

Employees who are unhappy with their jobs might also act out as a way to express their dissatisfaction.

When responding to difficult behavior from an employee managers and leaders need to remain professional at all times while addressing the issue head-on to avoid any potential legal issues down the line. It is best practice for them to take some time before responding so that they can assess the situation objectively rather than reacting emotionally which could make matters worse.

In the next sections, we discuss certain strategies on how to manage difficult people at work.

Establishing Boundaries

In learning how to manage difficult people at work, establishing boundaries is the most important strategy. Establishing boundaries with difficult people at work is essential for creating a productive and positive environment. Setting clear expectations, communicating firmly and respectfully, and taking action when necessary are all important steps in establishing boundaries.

Setting Clear Expectations

Establishing clear expectations from the beginning can help prevent misunderstandings or miscommunication down the line. It’s important to be direct about what you expect from others in terms of behavior, communication style, and deadlines so that everyone is on the same page.

Make sure to explain why certain expectations are being set as well. this will help ensure that everyone understands their role in meeting those expectations.

Communicating Firmly and Respectfully

When it comes to dealing with difficult people at work, it’s important to communicate firmly but respectfully. This means avoiding personal attacks or accusations while still making your point clearly and concisely.

Make sure you listen carefully to what they have to say before responding. This will show them that you value their opinion even if you don’t agree with it.

Take Action Decisively

If someone continues to violate established boundaries despite your efforts to communicate effectively with them, then it may be time to take action by speaking with a supervisor or HR representative about the situation. Taking decisive action can send a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated in the workplace and should hopefully resolve any issues quickly without further disruption of productivity or morale among coworkers.

Dealing with Conflict Constructively

Dealing with conflict constructively is an important skill for any manager or leader. It is one of the strategies on how to manage difficult people at work.

It can be difficult to remain calm and composed when faced with a challenging situation, but it’s essential to reach a resolution that works for everyone involved. Here are some strategies for dealing with conflict constructively:

Listening to Understand the Other Person’s Perspective

Listening is key when it comes to resolving conflicts. Take time to understand what the other person is saying and why they feel the way they do.

Ask questions if you need clarification, and don’t make assumptions about their intentions or motivations. This will help ensure that all parties have been heard and understood before attempting to resolve the issue at hand.

Keeping Emotions in Check and Staying Calm

It can be tempting to get angry or defensive during a disagreement, but this rarely leads anywhere productive. Instead of reacting emotionally, take a few moments to collect your thoughts before responding so that you can stay focused on finding a solution rather than getting caught up in arguing over who said what first.

Look for Common Ground

Once both sides have had an opportunity to express themselves fully, look for areas where there may be common ground between them. These points of agreement can form the basis of compromise moving forward.

Be willing to negotiate until both parties come away feeling satisfied with the outcome. This will help build trust between them going forward which could prevent similar issues from arising again in future conversations.

how to manage difficult people at work


Developing Leadership Skills for Difficult Situations

Leadership skills are essential for managing difficult situations and navigating through challenging times. Essential in learning how to manage difficult people at work is also developing your leadership capacity.

Building Effective Communication Skills

Being able to communicate effectively is an important part of being a successful leader. This means expressing your thoughts and feelings clearly without coming across as aggressive or confrontational.

It also involves active listening, which means paying attention when someone else is speaking so that you can understand their perspective better. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of nonverbal cues such as body language or facial expressions so that you can adjust your approach accordingly if needed.

Learning How To Make Decisions Quickly And Confidently

Leaders must often make decisions on the spot to keep things moving forward in difficult situations. It’s important not only to be decisive but also considerate when making these choices. Taking time out for reflection before reacting can help ensure that all perspectives have been taken into account before any action is taken.

Problem-solving Skills

Problem-solving strategies are essential for leaders who want to find solutions that work for everyone involved in a difficult situation. Brainstorming ideas together with those affected by the issue at hand may lead to innovative solutions that wouldn’t have otherwise been considered had they gone it alone. Additionally, having an open mind toward different approaches could help foster collaboration between parties who would normally disagree on certain matters.

Key Takeaway: Leaders must be able to effectively communicate, make decisions quickly and confidently, and use problem-solving strategies to manage difficult people at work.

Conclusion: How to Manage Difficult People at Work

Essential to learning how to manage difficult people at work is setting boundaries. This includes setting expectations of behavior and communication as well as outlining consequences if those expectations are not met. However, it is important to remember that all employees are different and require different approaches when it comes to dealing with them.

Understand where employees with difficult behavior are coming from, and try to address these from the root. By developing leadership skills, you will soon be able to glide through difficult situations. And with these strategies in place, you will be better equipped to manage difficult people at work and create a positive working environment for everyone involved.