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Working with difficult people? Don’t do this…


How should one work with difficult people? Unfortunately, I don’t know! But there are a few things that I know don’t work. So heed my advice… don’t do this:



Take My Advice Dammit

1)      Say you know best

Look we all know you do but don’t tell difficult people that you know best.

2)      Avoid talking

The most tempting thing to do with a difficult person is to ignore them and avoid talking to them. Don’t do it. It will only make it worse.

3)      Point out errors in decisions

Don’t make a big deal of showing people that they made a bad call it will only make them stick with it to try and prove you wrong!


Bad Decision Dinosaur

4)      Make it hard for them to change a bad decision

Present the better alternative as an option for them at all points. Make sure they feel like it is their choice to make things better (and their genius when they make that decision)

5)      Make options definitive. It has to be this or this.

It can be very tempting to want to control the situation by offering a difficult person a limited number of options (all of which you would be happy with). But be aware that this can cause problems.

6)      Have sole ownership of ideas and not let anyone else have input

It can be tempting to take control and want to avoid including a difficult person in the project. Fight the urge to cut them out. It will only cause you more problems in the future

7)      Force too much too soon

It’s hard for people that are new to your work and area of expertise to get up to speed. Don’t be tempted to move straight on to the juicer in-depth work. Start with the basics and let your difficult person begin to learn about it for themselves.


Left Brain v Right Brain

8)      Forget that people are emotional, not rational

People don’t necessarily see things in the logical way that you do. Remember… you used to believe that you knew what would make a site work better and make comments about web design without any kind of investigation. You have to be very gentle with sharing the research you have conducted and give difficult people the time to come around to using facts to make decisions. Try not to get exasperated!

9)      Not admitting failures/ mistakes and missed deadlines

Fess up when you mess up. Covering for your mistakes will only degrade the trust further.

10)   Using ‘to all’ emails to highlight how bad their decisions are

Oops. Yeah, so I’ve done this one. I’ve cc’d an email to the wider group (including the boss of the difficult person) to demonstrate that the decisions that are being made are incorrect. I thought it would make the difficult person back down. It did not. Don’t do it. You will simply build a huge wall between yourself and that person.