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1 STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE/DIFFICULT PEOPLE Developed by: Norm Riggs, MA. Reviewed by: Joel Rosenthal, Ph.D., and Sarah Renner, M.A. Clinical.

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Presentation on theme: "1 STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE/DIFFICULT PEOPLE Developed by: Norm Riggs, MA. Reviewed by: Joel Rosenthal, Ph.D., and Sarah Renner, M.A. Clinical."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH DISRUPTIVE/DIFFICULT PEOPLE Developed by: Norm Riggs, MA. Reviewed by: Joel Rosenthal, Ph.D., and Sarah Renner, M.A. Clinical Psychologist, Stanford University & Diana McCann, M.A., Business and Organization Consultant & Therapist

2 2 ANECDOTER (Note: Anecdoters can make a positive contribution if their stories are relevant, interesting, and not too long or frequent.) BEHAVIOR: Loves to tell stories, usually about personal experiences. Stories often relevant to business at hand and throw conversation off track, eating away at valuable time. Stories tend to flatter storyteller. Seeks humorous response or personal recognition.

3 3 ANECTDOTER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Acknowledge their contribution and move to refocus discussion. If behavior becomes disruptive, point out time constraints and suggest that anectdoter share stories after meeting. If behavior still a problem, take person aside and point out need to stick to agenda. Request help in keeping discussion on track.

4 4 AVOIDER BEHAVIOR: Hates controversy or conflict or doesn’t want to commit to ideas or responsibility. When faced with conflict, will change the subject, divert attention elsewhere, or plead for harmony. Seeks approval and tends to agree with ideas prematurely.

5 5 AVOIDER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Reassure group by pointing out that disagreement - when exercised respectfully - is healthy and important to good decision making. Ask open-minded questions to bring out discussion. Maintain focus - don’t let avoiders stifle or sidetrack the discussion. Clarify individual assignments and responsibilities to entire group. Set deadlines. Check on progress.

6 6 BLOCKER BEHAVIOR: Negative. Cynical. “It won’t work.” Belittles others’ ideas and rarely offer alternatives. Indifferent to others’ feelings.

7 7 BLOCKER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Confront their negativism without openly opposing them or quibbling over small points. (For example, “You’re right, what we’ve tried in the past hasn’t worked, but…”). Remain calm and maintain eye contact--blockers have little respect for wimps. Be assertive and positive-don’t given in to their negativism. Restate or summarize their point of view, but then firmly state your own position. Use “I” statements to set your opinion apart from theirs.

8 8 COMPETITOR BEHAVIOR: No matter what the idea, suggestion, or solution, the competitor can always come up with something better. Tends to feel superior to other members of the group. Possesses a strong need to “win.” Resents those who contradict or question them. Tends to recite facts for their case. Enjoys pointing out others’ mistakes.

9 9 COMPETITOR NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Be polite and non-combative as possible - competitors are often looking for a fight. Acknowledge their advice or opinion and then move discussion forward. De-escalate the competition by refusing to engage and pointing out that, while it is useful to discuss the pros and cons of an idea or suggestion, this is not a debate about who’s right or wrong. Make sure to double-check your facts.

10 10 DOMINATOR BEHAVIOR: Monopolizes discussion Interrupts others Exerts power Controlling Finds fault with others & their ideas Rambles May lack focus

11 11 DOMINATOR NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Do your homework - know your facts. Establish ground rules to promote a democratic discussion process. Respond with facts without being confrontational. Tactfully break in, thank the dominator for his/her contribution, and ask to “hear from others.” Ask close-ended questions that require “yes” & “no” responses.

12 12 DOMINATOR NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES (continued): Periodically stop and summarize what has been said. Look for an opportunity to break in. (All of us have to pause to catch our breath.) Promote wise use of time by scheduling meetings before lunch or at end of workday. Apply peer pressure toward democratic participation. Request that participants speak round-robin.

13 13 GOSSIPERS BEHAVIOR: Derives power from rumors. Rumors usually negative, not substantiated by facts, and harmful to others. Often has a hidden agenda--rumors promote self-interest. Uses rumors to distract from focus of meeting.

14 14 GOSSIPERS NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Ignore rumor -- quickly move back to focus. Don’t react -- change the subject. Be up front with gossiper that it is uncomfortable and inappropriate to engage in such discussion. Press gossiper for source and factual basis of rumor. Confront the gossiper -- if rumor is damaging to others, point this out.

15 15 JOKER (Note: Humor is sometimes welcome. In moderation, jokers can add spice to a discussion and may relieve tension, but a little of this behavior goes a long way.) BEHAVIOR: Craves attention. Wants credit for entertaining. Distracts and annoys group, especially the leader.

16 16 JOKER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Initially, ignore behavior. If behavior continues, pause and make eye contact with joker. This will sometimes exert group peer pressure on joker to refrain. Set behavior limits -- ask joker to please help group stay on task. Direct a question at or a request for input from joker.

17 17 NITPICKER BEHAVIOR: Unpleasant perfectionist. Worries and quibbles over little things. May be argumentative and critical of others. Distracts group from “big picture.”

18 18 NITPICKER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Acknowledges nitpicker’s point but don’t let group get sidetracked from main focus. If nitpicking becomes excessive, request that person visit with leader after meeting to discuss fine points. Nitpickers tend to be serious types; incorporate some humor or fun into meeting.

19 19 RECOGNITION SEEKER BEHAVIOR: Seeks credit for achievements. Anxious to please. Tends to be committed, active, and responsible member of group.

20 20 RECOGNITION SEEKER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Usually satisfied when acknowledged and complimented for their contributions. If behavior becomes distracting, give them an assignment to make use of their energy.

21 21 SABOTEUR BEHAVIOR: Devious. Conniving. Often has a vendetta against others. Plots and works behind the scene. May enlist others. Concerned primarily with self-interest. Betrays confidence. May withhold information. Like gossipers, saboteurs create and spread unpleasant facts or allegations.

22 22 SABOTEUR NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Handle with care! Such people are dangerous-- can destroy lives and careers. There is seldom middle ground with saboteurs- -confront them, either privately or in meeting. In extreme cases, dismiss from group. Create and keep allies among group members. Peer pressure may help neutralize saboteurs. Keep accurate records as proof in case it’s “your word against theirs.”

23 23 SELF-CONFESSOR/ SYMPATHY SEEKER BEHAVIOR: Shifts conversation toward personal needs, problems, or misfortunes. Diverts focus by dumping personal, unwanted information on group. Seeks feedback and sympathy from group.

24 24 SELF-CONFESSOR/ SYMPATHY SEEKER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: If concerns have some merit, briefly and gently acknowledge this person’s situation but quickly return to topic at hand. Explain that time constraints do not allow for group discussion of unresolved personal concerns. If behavior resumes, ignore and stay focused. Take person aside and privately discuss concerns. Sometimes such people are insecure and may need a little understanding or reinforcement. If person is extremely distressed, privately suggest seeking professional assistance to help talk through problems.

25 25 SPECIAL INTEREST PLEADER BEHAVIOR: Promotes personal interest over that of group. Often has a hidden agenda. Diverts attention and discussion toward personal interest. Dominant and persistent; may bully others to gain personal goals.

26 26 SPECIAL INTEREST PLEADER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Keep discussion focused and productive (“What you’re saying is interesting, now let’s hear from some others.”) Avoid confronting them with facts -- they will usually try to refute facts in order to plead their cause. Look for opportunity to dovetail the needs of the special interest pleader with the focus and needs of the group. Rely on peer pressure to pursue interest of the group as a whole.

27 27 WITHDRAWER (Note: Withdrawers may fall into two categories: (1) Individuals who are shy and may lack confidence. (2) People who refuse to become engaged because they have an “attitude.”) BEHAVIOR: Does not become engaged in discussion. Often sends out “negative vibes.” May be genuinely disinterested in topic May disagree with majority opinion. Withdrawing behavior may result from lack of confidence.

28 28 WITHDRAWER NEUTRALIZING STRATEGIES: Ask his or her opinion. Establish eye contact. Ask open-ended questions (“what,” “how,” “why,” “could,” or “would”) that encourage discussion. Offer encouragement to their ideas and remind them that their ideas are important to the group. Like avoiders, clarify their responsibilities, set deadlines, and check on their progress.


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