Communication Effectiveness – Dealing With Known Problem Players, CYA!

Sometimes as a leader, you will need to communicate with a person who you know to be difficult or who has a reputation of being difficult. In those instances, for an effective engagement and an intended positive outcome, there are some safeguards to consider.

Dealing With Known Problem Players
Means “Covering Your Actions” (CYA)

In Non-Confrontational Ways

There are clues that you have a possible problem ahead of you and that a person is branded as “bad luggage” (although management has not or is unwilling to free up their future for other career opportunities at the health benefit to an organization):

  1. If the employees of an individual turn over faster than they do
  2. If colleagues leave, quit or take a lateral transfer faster than the individual in question gets promoted
  3. If peers to an individual limit their exposure to them, don’t go out of their way to engage them and are reluctant to give you insight to how best to engage them when you ask for coaching guidance
  4. If you have ever witnessed individuals having communication implosions with a person
  5. If vendors have more critical than constructive comments about an individual
  6. If a long-standing, positively contributing event, program, initiative or service is attacked by an individual for the sake of drawing attention to him or herself
  7. If you have ever been mislead or used by an individual
  8. If you know a person is a political animal and they use people – at the expense of the organization – for their own goals
  9. If a person uses their position (tenure with the organization, age, gender, race, personal connections, etc.) as their insurance policy for not being “terminated”
Many times, problem and difficult players are a cancer
with which leadership refuses to deal.
In that wake, many times more contributing forces

to organizational success are lost!

Forecasting problematic players to communicate with is easy if one pays attention to the numerous clues. The question then evolves to how best to engage them for solution-oriented, organization-benefiting outcomes. If you have someone like this in your organization, consider these strategies:

  1. Pre E-mail or Correspondence – Look for an opportunity for an upcoming initiative on which the two of you will work together. After your initial dialogue, e-mail them an after-action review, recapping your understanding of the essential 5-Ws and 1-H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How). In essence, make sure you specifically speak to – in a non-confrontational manner – any item that the person has previously demonstrated to be a point of contention. Then send a copy to all appropriate supervisors, vendors, clients, etc. This will be a positive intention e-mail, and the copy provides for initial documentation that will motivate the other party to constructively participate when they see others have received copies. You can preface the reason of sending copies to others under the pretense, “If anyone has suggestions as to how any of us can attain a higher level of success with our individual responsibilities, please share immediately.”
  1. Backup Documentation – In heightened situations where you know someone to be difficult and you really need to cover your actions, keep appropriate documentation off site. When push comes to shove, documentation always wins if you have the facts. Then, and only then, will a habitual problem player be held accountable and possibly purged from an organization!
  1. Assume Follow Up – Between when you initially talk about doing anything and when it is actually done, determine consistent and regular interval update times to ensure they are on track.  By doing this, you will avoid deadline implosions. This may mean setting check points in your PDA, calendars, tickler-systems or day planners. At each of these check points (again in a non-confrontational manner), document and send a follow-up correspondence to them with copies to all appropriate parties in the universe – otherwise it is your word versus theirs!
  1. Involve Neutral Parties – As appropriate, identify neutral third parties, whom the other person appears to respect and that you can accept as well. Engage them early and often to enhance one another’s actions plans for greater efficiency. By doing so, you are not focusing energies or attention on one another as personalities, but rather on the mutual gains. Thus, interactions will also begin to condition the perceived difficult player to be less difficult in your presence.
  1. Stay Focused on Big Picture – Another way to avoid the personal involvement with problem players in communication is to ensure your goal is always the end game of the organization. Tie your communications to that of the organization’s Mission Statement, and it will become increasingly more difficult for the traditional problem player to challenge you or attempt to undermine your initiatives!
  1. Alliance Communications – Associate your communication subject matter to others that have bought into it or are supporting it. Problem players are more inclined to come after you when it appears to be a “You versus Them” format. Likewise, they tend to be less confrontational when you seem to be a part of a bigger grouping. It could sound like this, “In talking with Susan, Tom and Chris, they thought it would be in our best interest if we…” Now, whatever you present appears to be part of a larger energy force.

It is a fact of organizational reality that many times that which holds an organization back from peak performance is not an outside force, but rather an internal one. And yes, it is also true that far too often these people are just clever enough (not actually smart enough) to play the system to their advantage that management is intimidated to do their leadership job and intervene with them, coach them, council them or terminate them. They become an actual passive-aggressive cancer to an organization.

As a managerial-leader you don’t have to become a victim of them. You need merely become a better communicator in the presence of them.

Dr Jeff Magee
Facebook (Get a FREE copy of my Performance Execution Ebook)
Twitter
http://JeffreyMagee.com

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