Taming the Office Gremlins: Leadership Hacks for Dealing with Difficult People

Dr Rick Goodman
3 min readFeb 9, 2024

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Let’s face it, mastering leadership isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. There will be days when you feel like you’re juggling flaming torches instead of leading a team. Enter the “difficult people,” those fire-breathing individuals who leave a trail of stress and frustration in their wake. But fear not, brave leader, for this blog post is your secret weapon to turning tantrums into triumphs.

Forget the Slaying, Embrace the Understanding:

Most blogs tell you to “confront” or “shut down” negativity. We say, hold on, partner! Imagine a dragon guarding a treasure. You wouldn’t just attack, would you? You’d learn its triggers, understand its motivations. The same applies to difficult people. A 2023 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that 57% of employees have experienced workplace conflict, highlighting the need for effective conflict resolution strategies. So, ditch the dragon-slaying mentality and embrace the power of empathy. Actively listen, ask open-ended questions, and try to see things from their perspective. You might be surprised by what you uncover.

Words are Weapons, but Choose Wisely:

Let’s be honest, dragons are sensitive creatures. So, instead of wielding accusatory broadswords (think “You’re always complaining!”), opt for precise daggers of “I” statements. For example, “I feel discouraged when negativity dominates team discussions. Can we focus on solutions together?” (Source: The Gottman Institute). Remember, criticism is a dead-end street, but constructive feedback paves the path to progress. Focus on specific behaviors and offer actionable steps for improvement. Dragons, like humans, respond better to positive reinforcement than fiery pronouncements.

Boundaries: The Dragon Whisperer’s Shield:

Dragons, bless their fire-breathing hearts, tend to push boundaries. That’s where you, the wise leader, step in. Establish clear expectations and consequences for unacceptable behavior. Be firm, be fair, and follow through consistently. Think of it as building a fence, not a wall. It protects both the dragon and the rest of the kingdom (your team)…

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Dr Rick Goodman

Leadership Expert at www.rickgoodman.com | Author The Solutions Oriented Leader | Motivational Keynote Speaker | Executive Coach, Life Coach, Team Building,