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Workplace 101: A Profiles Global Business Blog

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Keep the Peace: How to Manage Problematic Personalities


According to Merriam-Webster, personality is a person’s set of distinctive traits and characteristics. Note that the definition does not say ‘good’ traits and ‘favorable’ characteristics. Although there are many people with extremely pleasant personalities, there are just as many people with ‘nails on a chalkboard’ type personalities that send shivers up your spine and make you want to scream.

Whether it is constant complaining, inappropriate jokes, interrupting conversations, a condescending tone of voice, or being overly dramatic, problematic personalities can be difficult to deal with in the work environment. At some point in each of our professional careers, we will encounter or manage a person with a problematic personality. These people can have a negative impact on coworkers and damage the culture of an organization. Although having a difficult personality isn’t a crime, there are certain behaviors and personality traits that are undesirable in the workplace and require tact in order to be dealt with appropriately.

So, how do you manage employees that exhibit a troublesome personality? The difficult employee may be one of your top performers, so immediate termination or re-assignment to a different department may not be the best solution. What if you could find a way to modify the problem employee’s behavior while at work and still have them maintain their high performance level?

Managing these types of employees is challenging, but it is not impossible. There are some simple steps that managers can take to turn the situation around and make the employee’s behavior less distracting in the office environment.

First, make sure the employee is aware of his or her behavior and the problems that this behavior is causing in the workplace. Employees are often oblivious to their own quirks and distracting behaviors. Managers should arrange a one-on-one meeting with the employee to explain how the behavior is affecting his or her coworkers and the office. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem, for the employee and for the manager.

Second, provide support to help motivate the employee to change. Before managers can take this step, the employee with the personality issue must show a willingness to change. Once the employee admits there is problem and makes an effort to do better, the additional support and motivation can begin. This may take up a great deal of time and require special attention on one employee, but after the distracting behavior is eliminated, the other employees will be more productive.

Lastly, enlist the help of trustworthy employees. These employees can provide feedback on how the employee with the problematic personality is progressing. Is he or she trying to do better or still choosing to engage in negative behavior? Managing difficult employees can be made easier by enlisting the help of coworkers and other employees. If the employee still seems unwilling to change, then management may have to take a more drastic approach.

Tackling the issue of workplace conflict or an employee with a problematic personality is not something that a manager looks forward to; however, it is inevitable. There will always be employees who ‘hit a nerve’ and the way in which you manage these employees will be a testament to your management abilities.

What are some troublesome personality issues that you have encountered in your professional career? What are some other ways that managers could handle difficult employees? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comment box below.




Great article and pointers!
Posted @ Thursday, May 17, 2012 10:58 AM by Nicole Onufreychuk
Thanks Nicole! I am glad you enjoyed the article.
Posted @ Thursday, May 17, 2012 11:26 AM by Jaylyn Schumpert
Any suggestions when the troublesome personality belongs to the CEO?
Posted @ Thursday, May 17, 2012 12:19 PM by Meg
Thanks for your comment. We are actually JUST working on an article of 'signs of a bad boss and how to deal with it.' First thing I would suggest is communication, check out this article on how to give feedback to your boss. <a><a> Hope this helps!
Posted @ Thursday, May 17, 2012 12:35 PM by Aoife Gorey
How do you manage a problem personality when the individual concerned is your manager?
Posted @ Thursday, May 17, 2012 5:38 PM by Bob Ball
Bob having a manager with a difficult personality can definitely be a challenge. Check out this article on how you can discuss the problem with your manager, and still keep your job. Thanks for the question!
Posted @ Friday, May 18, 2012 8:25 AM by Jaylyn Schumpert
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