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Technical Difficulties

Technical Difficulties

CIOs have always had to deal with problem employees, but in today's labour market you may not be able to boot your talented-but-difficult curmudgeons out the door. Tackle the issue head on with these management tricks for handling difficult people in the workplace.

"Susie's mad and I'm glad and I know how to please her. A bottle of ink to make her stink, a bottle of rum to make her hum and a little boy to squeeze her." - Children's playground song.

Needless to say, those methods should not be in your bag of management tricks for handling difficult people in the workplace.

When an organisation introduces new software or hardware or begins merger talks, people react like cats. They tend to go to ground and subtly resist the changes. They cop an attitude, mark their territory (particularly in mergers) and if they're not mewing with discontent, they're sitting in silent superiority. Such underhanded, passive-aggressive reactions often present CIOs with their greatest challenges. The reactions can not only prove extremely difficult to detect and manage, but can ultimately spell the doom of the planned changes.

Whether supporting an external customer or working with internal departments, it is fair to say IT professionals find themselves in more "difficult" conversations than the average person, notes Kristin Anderson of Say What? Consulting and co-author of Customer Relationship Management: A Business Briefcase Book.

"Why? Because IT professionals continually communicate with people who: a) don't understand the technology, its limitations or capabilities, b) think they understand quite enough, and c) believe that if you don't just 'fix it' or 'create it', it's because you want to be obstructive," Anderson says. After surveying more than 1500 people regarding tactics people employ when they are going through work change, Anderson says it is clear IT managers face some "interesting" challenges.

Every organisation has its share of difficult people. They disrupt meetings, defy deadlines, and seem to want to argue endlessly on any proposition that does not fit their limited, ego-driven vision for the world.

"The signs are everywhere: voices raised in the conference room, hushed conversations in the hall, closed-door complaints from employees of your team," writes Constantine Von Hoffman in a Harvard Management Update called "Crabs, Cranks and Curmudgeons: How to Manage Difficult People". "One of the people in the group - yes, one of the smartest, most highly skilled people you have - is a pain. A troublemaker.

Someone who aggravates everyone and pleases nobody."

Von Hoffman says managers have always had to deal with problem employees, but in today's labour market you may not be able to boot your talented-but-difficult curmudgeons out the door. Clearly new tactics are needed.

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