G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

Virtual Job Fair   |   June 27

5 Techniques To Master When Learning How To Manage Difficult People


Camaraderie isn’t always as abundant in the civilian workplace as it was in the military. Everyone has rough days, and it can be tough to work with difficult people. Dealing with difficult personalities in the workplace will always be a challenge!

Do not let the difficult personality types you work with limit your productivity and morale. Review these five personality types, and use these tips to learn how to manage difficult people in the workplace. 

1. The Ineffective Worker
Slow work pace. You know, the person you have to push to meet the minimum standard for the day…

  • Set a preset goal for them, including some buffer time.
  • Set a time limit to obtain the daily goal: one long-term, and one short-term for assessment.
  • Follow up with them by the short-term goal to assess pacing.
  • Finally, follow up with a private meeting if preset goals are not working. A performance review of expectations should be evaluated and counseling should be given at this time.

2. The Peculiar Employee/’Genius’

  • Don’t spotlight the person. Instead, focus on their performance. Their effectiveness is the end-product, not their eccentricities.
  • Be straightforward and direct with them.
  • Ask questions to stay involved. Oftentimes these out-of-the box thinkers are 20 steps ahead and multitasking while you’re just visualizing the mass on their desk. Do not analyze their workspace; ask them what they are thinking, how they expect to achieve their daily/weekly goals, and listen to how they formulate these thoughts. Better engagement with your “genius” employee will keep both parties involved!
  • Maintain mutual respect. Admire their abilities and keep them accountable as any employee should be.

3. The ‘Know-it-All’ (who really doesn’t…)
Similar to the “genius,” these individuals only believe they know it all, whether they do or not.

  • It is no longer business as usual. Keep this individual on a short leash, as they do damage like a tornado and do not correct generally accept criticism.
  • While keeping an eye on them, expect them to show accountability for their process via progress reports, documentation of processes (and the decision/support behind them), as well as a weekly follow-up.
  • Engage them in educating themselves on the company’s background, and keep them accountable for the process they weave from it. Similar to a “pop quiz,” ask questions and follow up with them to visualize and confirm that processes are indeed correct.
  • Mutual respect: Whether they truly know it all or not, all individuals deserve respect, and it must be mutual! If they are not friendly to you, do not return their negativity but reprimand accordingly, and behind closed doors. If they are your superior, report them in the chain of command in a respectful manner, with details.

4. The Social Butterfly
The chatty, easy-to-engage employee usually is great with customer service but may lapse in professionalism, or task management. If deadlines aren’t being met because of ‘Chatty Cathy’ and their now-unreliable track record, here are some things to keep in practice:

  • Work them where their social skills are an “unqualified asset.” Shift elements of work to them like phone call interception, calls out, and communication data in emails. In the meantime, whatever work they were missing should be delegated to someone whose inclinations lie directly parallel with these required deadlines.
  • Let them know their social skills are appreciated by accentuating their positives. Ask them if they’d like to organize the company holiday party or fundraiser. Use their talents to keep their social gifts engaged, without stifling them.

5. No People Skills Person
Sometimes their personal responses are seemingly rude, or abrupt: These should not be taken personally, and this should be communicated to your fellow employees. However, mediation and counseling must be given to these individuals regularly, as their “calm periods” are simply that, and are not permanent.

  • Planning their work should incorporate an alternate plan if things shift. These personality types want the structure and aren’t inclined to roll with sudden changes. Be certain there is a “plan B” in line that they are spun up on.
  • Train them! Send them to seminars, and teach them how to use their untapped people skills. One cannot just not hire someone with a different personality, as skills are the basis of the hiring board. Teach them and keep them engaged.
  • Explain to this personality why others wish to be spoken to in a certain way, and demonstrate why a compliment is positive. Keep it simple, brief, and based on skill vs. emotion.


All of us, at one point or another, have been someone’s “Difficult Employee.” Keep in mind that kindness and logic will be the root of investigating and working with all personality types. For more fascinating information on personalities in the workplace, read: “Managing Difficult People: A Survival Guide for Handling Any Employee,” by Marilyn Pincus.


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