Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dealing With Difficult People In Business

People often bring personal baggage into the workplace.   As one of our Senior Vice Presidents often says, "People Are Messy".  This baggage may be the result of childhood upbringing, failed marriages and other relationships, substance abuse, or financial and other family issues.   This is the reason, in the United States, our company screens for substance abuse and credit issues before hiring a new employee, even though this process alone does not prevent us from hiring employees with other issues.   There is no doubt that employees who come into the workplace with unresolved baggage and various other problems are not as productive as employees that are not troubled by these issues. 

That would be bad enough; but some times these issues result in the need to deal with "difficult" people in business.   Clearly, employees that demonstrate anti social, or destructive behaviors that may impact other employees, customers, or our clients cannot be tolerated.  After serious counseling, if these behaviors do not end, termination must be quick.   Other employees experiencing personal issues that may impact job performance must also be counseled related to their performance.   While we would always be sympathetic and it may be difficult, people must be counseled to leave their problems at home in order to be effective at work.   When that is not feasible, generally continued employment becomes impossible. 

In some sense, though often difficult, dealing with employees is much easier than dealing with difficult customers, or client contacts because ultimately, employees can be terminated.  While it is true that a company can refuse to deal with a customer, or client by cancelling a contract; that would always be a last resort.   Specific to a customer, there is a fine line between dealing with a demanding customer, which is normal and dealing with an abusive customer.   Abusive customers in a business to business relationship must be brought to the attention of their employer.   No company would support abusive behaviors by one of their employees toward anyone because of the legal liability. 

During my 33 years in business, I have encountered perhaps 5 or 6 very difficult and even abusive client contacts.   Though it is not our job to be a psychologist, these people all brought baggage into the workplace that caused their horrible behaviors.   And, in doing so actually created a "hostile work environment" for our employees assigned to work with them.   As a senior manager in any company, since tolerating "a hostile work environment" created by anyone in the workplace, has legal implications,  when this occurs, action to stop it is required. 

The first way to handle a difficult client contact is for the day to day account manager to confront the individual by saying that while we are in business to provide great service or products, we cannot allow the contact's abusive behaviors to create a "hostile work environment" for our employees.   This should be a heart to heart discussion; but one that is clear and forceful.   If the abusive behaviors don't stop, it is time for the company's senior management to contact the senior management of the client company. 

As the CEO of a global company,  I would want to know if one of our employees was improperly representing our company.   Be assured, if confronted with this occurrence, after investigation, our employee's abusive behaviors would either stop, or our employee would be gone.  Unfortunately, dealing with difficult people in business is a fact of life and a management responsibility.   It is not always pleasant; but it must be done for the good of all concerned.  

No comments:

Post a Comment