Coaching for a
Difficult Person at Work
A FLEXIBLE, STRUCTURED PROGRAMME OF
ONE-TO-ONE EXECUTIVE COACHING
This programme provides friendly, fearless and effective development support for someone who has become too difficult at work. It can be commissioned by leaders or Human Resources professionals on behalf of colleagues.
From time to time, most of us hit some kind of rough patch at work. But just occasionally, that gets to the point where someone has become much too difficult, negative, challenging or unreliable for things to continue. At that point, it may already be having a significant impact on outcomes and on other people.
For those with responsibility it can be a tricky situation.
Human Resources professionals have a balancing job to do. Supporting the leaders of a difficult person but without always having control over the exact dynamics. Seeing the bigger picture of the impact on the business and yet needing to support the individual concerned. And wanting to do that in a way that is positive, fair and effective.
Leaders and colleagues often feel exhausted by their encounters with a difficult person; by the time and the weight of responsibility in trying to resolve the situation. Or it’s the uncertainty that creates the strain: will things blow up; will something critical get dropped or slip through the cracks; will a key ally or partner be driven away. At the same time, some leaders can be quite self-critical, concerned that they have done something wrong.
I understand what it’s like to be dealing with someone who has become too difficult at work. Wanting to help them and yet also wanting to balance the needs of the job.
Good leaders and managers will try to put things right via a sit-down with the difficult person. They’ll set out the situation as they see it and ask what they can do to support change.
When that doesn’t work, it’s often for two reasons:
Human Resources professionals are likely to have discussed the organisation’s Performance Management process. And yet this can often seem too heavy to go straight into. Or too cumbersome to deal with a difficult person in a senior role. Good practice also suggests a more developmental intervention first in any case.
Less experienced leaders and managers might have had a sit-down that involves threats or bargaining. Even if this works, things are likely to revert back quickly.
In some organisations, the situation can have been going on for way too long. This can happen when that person has some valuable expertise, influence or power. Or in cases where managers might have unconsciously decided to leave things as they are, often from fear of just making it worse.
In a coaching assignment for a difficult person at work, it’s important to consider that perspectives can be radically different.
If you’re experiencing me as difficult at work, I’m almost certainly not deliberately trying to be difficult. Even if it can often seem that way. From my point of view, I’m in a demanding situation, trying very hard to do what I see as the right thing, in the best way that I know how.
So, if it’s to have a chance of being successful, the development support has to be capable of holding both of those perspectives.
Similarly, even if you can align the way that they do things, organisations and individuals don’t always have the same agendas or the same outcomes in mind. The change process also has to map what people want for their work and their broader lives and careers onto the context of the business and what it is trying to achieve.
One cause of a difficult situation is the stress people are under and how they’ve responded to it – even when that stress might not be visible to others (or to the person themselves sometimes!).
To be successful, change has to get past the barriers that people erect when they feel under pressure. It needs to get around their fear of losing both their sense of self and their familiar ways of operating. And it has to loosen entrenched habits and offer more attractive and effective ways of doing things.
It takes a lot and it’s not always successful because sometimes all those factors simply can’t be aligned. When it does work, it’s from something like a structured and flexible coaching process that can do all of the above and also operate as a credible and independent champion to the difficult person. Someone who is on their side, but as a critical friend, to lift and challenge them.
I know what it takes to help people who are being experienced as difficult at work.
I’ve done this as a leader myself and managed the process in a large organisation. I’ve chaired performance management committees and employee appeal panels in other organisations.
More recently, I’ve dedicated a large part of my coaching practice to it and you’ll be able to read more about that in my forthcoming book, to be published by Pearson next year.
I’m a Certified Professional Coach with hard- and soft-skills qualifications, over twenty years’ experience in executive coaching, and experience of my own in large and small organisations up to and including board-level.
You can also see more about my qualifications, background and ethos over on my About page.
“At its core, my coaching is about championing – to understand and to lift, challenge and celebrate people in how they balance the demands of their work with their own effectiveness and fulfilment”
A flexible, structured programme of one-to-one Executive Coaching
Leaders and Human Resources professionals in support of colleagues.
Nick was my executive coach and has been absolutely outstanding. I could not give him higher recommendation. I’ve had many coaches during my career and Nick particularly helped me through some stormy times and has kept me as a value adding effective senior Director whilst helping me personally.
Nick has been a fantastic coach to me and my business is showing the results. I genuinely believe that the business would have been ripped apart if was not for the skills and capabilities that Nick models and follows so masterfully.