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There is no such thing as difficult people – it’s how you manage them that counts.  A bit like puppy training.  It is often the owner of the puppy who needs to be trained ‘how to manage’ the pup!   Puppies respond to praise and encouragement – so too do people.

Managing people however, can be extremely difficult at times.  No one said it would easy!   The very best managers struggle.  Some say ‘it is either something you can or cannot do’.   Not true in our view.  Managing staff merely requires a) a degree of leadership expertise, b) an organised, calm and professional approach, and c) the courage to put your hand up and seek assistance from time to time.  Simple.


Supervisor: “Good morning John.  You’re looking smart today”.

John: “Are you saying I usually look a mess”?

The problem here is the person receiving the compliment has low self esteem.   The most skilled manager in the world will come across a situation like this, or a person ‘with attitude’ at some point in his/her career.  

Imagine you are at a dinner party, wearing your best outfit.  You are sat next to a close friend.  Your friend accidently spills his wine over your outfit.  You are likely to say something like; “That’s OK mate, it will wash out“.

Now imagine that the person sitting next to you is a person you dislike intently.  This person has been quite hostile towards you and the relationship between you is so poor, given a choice, you generally walk out of the room when he walks in.   This person spills his wine over your outfit.  You are likely to say, or at least think, “You did that deliberately”.

Sometimes, how we interact with individuals depends largely on perception or on an opinion we have subconsciously already formed about them (which may be based on fact or on what we have been told) – and this can alter, one way or the other, the way we react.    This applies to relationships in the workplace too. 

Here are some workplace patterns you might come across;

  • Negative and complaining
  • Poor attitude
  • Arriving late and going home early – or working to rule with no flexibility
  • Throwing ‘sickies’ frequently
  • De-motivating the remainder of the team


There is no quick fix – but if you are managing staff who fall into this category, think of yourself as a Coach.  The cross-over skills of a Manager and a Coach are very similar – listening, leading, motivating, encouraging skills etc.  Spend quality time with your team.  Make yourself accessible to the entire team.  It is important to listen to people. 

Building rapport helps.  Coincidentally, RAPPORT also happens to be the name of our Newsletter.  Be assertive. Motivate yourself. Have confidence.  Be self aware and deal with people problems.

If matters become contentious, don’t feel that it is a failing or a weakness within yourself.  Refer to your policies and procedures and/or seek help. 

HR & Diversity Management

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