Dealing with Difficult People: Low self-efficacy

It is often the case that managers come across employees who have a very low level of self efficacy. In such circumstances, it is very difficult to motivate these individuals and to get good results out of them. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s subjective beliefs about his/her capability to succeed at performing a specific task. People usually possess differing degrees of self-efficacy about various tasks. For example, some believe they are good in math but not so good in chemistry, while for others it is the other way around. In general, the more self-efficacy an individual has, the more motivated and persistent he/she will be in accomplishing a task, and the more difficult tasks he/she will attempt and succeed at. Feelings of self-efficacy start developing in early childhood and continue throughout an individual’s life; they are not constant and fixed and can be enhanced or diminished. Studies have indicated that motivation will increase as perceptions of self-efficacy increase.

Larry is 26 years old. He has been working for a media design company for two years. He is a talented individual but not very self-confident and assertive. His manager, Jane, notices his talent and potential but also realizes that those qualities do not always translate into superior performance. She wonders what factors prohibit him from delivering better results at work.

After talking to Larry, Jane realizes that he doesn’t believe he is very talented and creative. Because of his low self-efficacy for his job, he does not feel that trying harder will bring about superior performance or desirable outcomes, such as respect of others and positive performance rating. He has many ideas for projects the company is working on but he usually just keeps them to himself because, in his opinion, they don’t fall in line with company’s direction. Jane really likes some of Larry’s designs and does think that they follow with the company’s direction. She devised a plan to bring Larry out of his shell and help him perform on a higher level.

Jane gave Larry assignments that progress from easy to difficult levels. Successfully accomplishing progressively difficult tasks helped Larry realize that he is competent at his job and capable of superior performance. Allowing him to work on tasks at which he excels, as well as offering opportunities to try new task, challenged him and encouraged a balance of success and personal and professional growth for Larry.

Jane encouraged Larry to observe other people at company meetings, note how forthcoming they are in bringing up their ideas and suggestions. The social and professional climate at the company was very supportive and non-judgmental; no idea is looked down upon, no matter how outlandish. After all, the job they are doing is all about creativity and thinking outside the box. This experience helped Larry become more vocal and forthcoming with his ideas. By watching his peers, he first learned to repeat or to mimic their ways and then finally develop his own. The full engagement with the mentors also promoted social interaction which led to a higher self esteem and confidence in himself.

Jane also gave Larry plenty of encouragement overall. For example, after every assignment was accomplished, Larry received encouraging and supportive feedback in front of the entire group. This public acknowledgement in front of his peers built and encouraged his self-confidence. With this feeling of respect among his co-workers, Larry stopped feel so timid or scared to step up. This step aided in restoring and strengthening Larry’s confidence in his abilities.

In order for Larry to be able to associate certain levels of accomplishments with different emotions, Jane also allowed him to perform certain tasks under different scenarios and circumstances. Individuals perform differently based on the environment they are working in. It is like a trial by error situation; Larry may perform the same task more efficiently by feeling more pressure or the total opposite and altogether fail. Jane allowed him to experience different situations. Given the opportunity to work in different conditions, Larry gained a self knowledge of how to handle any situation as it arises. This exercise helped increase Larry’s self-efficacy to believe in his ability.

At the end of the action plan, Jane had finally managed to transform Larry into a more confident and able individual and he also started to churn out much better results in terms of work performance.

Categorized as Media

Dealing with Difficult People: Create Self Belief

If you are faced with a situation where you need to work people who do not have any belief in themselves, it is important for you to show that belief in them. Believing the best in people usually brings the best out of people. As Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

When LouAnne Johnson got out of High School, she discovered she didn’t much care for college. She lasted forty five days before dropping out and enlisting in the US Navy. There she flourished. She served eight years and along the way she earned a degree in psychology. Then she decided to join the US Marines, completed officer candidate school and served as a second lieutenant. But nine years into her military career, Johnson did some soul searching and decided to leave the service.

For a while she worked at the New York Times in sales, where she earned a good salary. But she didn’t find it rewarding enough. She had been reading about kids graduating from school who couldn’t read, couldn’t write and didn’t have the basic literacy skills. She thought it was criminal. She moved to the West Coast, took a job as an executive assistant at Xerox and returned to college to earn her master’s degree. Her desire was to become a teacher. She decided she would rather make much less money and do something that was really important. When Johnson completed her degree, she took a position as an intern at Parkmont High School in Belmont, California, a town south of San Francisco.

“What they didn’t say was that this veteran teacher had been driven off by the kids” recalls Johnson. “That first day they were just wild. They acted like I wasn’t there.” She came back the next day with great resolve. She continued, “I told them I was too young to retire and too mean to quit.”

She quickly developed strategies for connecting with the students. “I tried to use humor rather than threats,” explained Johnson. “Sometimes I would get on my knees and say: ‘Please don’t make me beg. It’s so unattractive.’ You can’t be a tough guy when you’re smiling at the teacher.”

But more than anything else, her deep belief in her students won them over. A practice she developed for the first day of class- something she called her “card trick”- is typical of the kinds of things she did. She passed out index cards for students to supply name, address, phone number, and personal information. While they completed the cards, she walked the room with her roll sheet, glancing at their cards to see their names, which she secretly memorized. As each teenager finished the information, she picked up each card and individually thanked each student. When she had all of the cards, she announced that the students were about to have their first test. The grumbling began, but she let them know that the test wasn’t for them- it was for her. If she could name each student, she would win. If she missed even one name, every student would get an automatic A on the first test. After she named every student, many of the kids were impressed. And she told them “I know your names because you are important people to me. When I look at you, I see you. I like you. And I care about you. That’s why I am here.”

Johnson’s attitude wasn’t restricted to parlor tricks. She lived it out every day. Once, when a student named Raul was in debt for one hundred dollars to a street tough, Johnson lent him the money. But it was on one condition; Raul could pay her back only on the day he graduated.

Johnson believed in her students so much that they began to believe in themselves. Raul, whose mother and father had stopped going to school in second and third grades, hung in there and graduated. He is the first person in his family to earn a high school diploma.

Source: Winning with people, by John C. Maxwell

Categorized as Media

Dealing with Difficult People: The Bob Principle

One of the most difficult tasks for a manager is to identify and deal with problem employees. As a manager, you might have to deal with your employees coming up to you and complaining about various issues. It is very important however that you scrutinize every complaint that comes to you and not get fooled by “The Bob Principle.” “The Bob Principle” as author John C. Maxwell mentions in his book Winning with People is that when Bob has a problem with everyone, Bob is usually the problem.

Have you ever known a person who had problems follow him wherever he went? That seemed to be the case with Billy Martin. When he got called up to the Yankees in 1950 as a second baseman, he was joining one of the best baseball teams of all time. And Martin held his own. He performed especially well during the World Series games and was named Series’ MVP in 1953. While he was with the Yankees as a player (1950-57), the only year they did not win the series was 1954, the year Martin was in the army.

But despite his success, Martin’s life was never smooth sailing. The problem was that he often seemed to have a hard time getting along with people. The reason he left the Yankees after seven seasons is that he was traded following a big fight in a night club involving other Yankees players. After Martin left the Yankees, he played for six other teams in four years. He retired in 1961 and went on to coach. In 1969 he became a manager. But everywhere he went, trouble followed. He was legendary for the fistfights he started.

The fights and insobriety continued into his managerial career. In 1969 during his tenure as manager of the Minnesota Twins, he beat up his star pitcher Dave Boswell and was fired. In 1974 with the Texas Rangers, he popped the team’s 64 year old travelling secretary in a fight over a proposed club for the team’s wives. Hired back as manager of the Yankees in 1977, he took the team to a world title, but was, at one point, seen battling with Reggie Jackson in the dugout during a nationally televised game, and was again relieved of his position.

The early eighties were the usual for Martin. Hired, fired, and rehired by the Yankees again, Martin drank and brawled his way out of every job he ever had. His teams almost always won, but the price of living with Martin was too much. Martin was continually ejected from games and often suspended for his treatment of umpires. And he didn’t get along with the owners of the teams that employed him either.

Billy is the perfect example of the Bob principle. If Bob has a problem with Bill, and Bob has problems with Fred, and Bob has problems with Sue, and Bob has problems with Jane, and Bob has problems with Sam, then Bob is usually the problem. Quiet often, Bob will create a toxic environment in the workplace. It is important for you to decide whether such a person is really worth having in your office.

When a negative person like Bob tries to drop a problem in your lap, respond with something positive. If the comment is about a situation, try to find a bright side. If it’s about a person, point out a positive trait you’ve observed. Anytime a person’s motives are being critiqued, the best thing is to give him the benefit of the doubt. No one should presume to know the heart of another person. Believe the best in others and express that belief, unless the individuals prove otherwise to you personally.

Not everyone will respond positively to your suggestions. But if you have a strong connection with Bob or you are in a position of authority with him, then ask him to THINK before he speaks. But finally if everything is lost and you supervise one or more Bobs – and you can’t or don’t want to remove them from your team – then do damage control by isolating them. Don’t let the negativism spread.

Source: Winning with People, by John C. Maxwell

Categorized as Media

Dealing with Difficult People: Unhappy customers

It’s easy to let angry customers walk out the door after you make a mistake. And sometimes, they’re going to leave no matter what you do to try and keep them. But successful businesses know that service recovery is one of the most important elements in customer retention. By following a few simple steps, you can turn upset customers into loyal, happy ones.

The Walt Disney Company is known for being a masterfully run company. In everything from logistics to leadership and marketing, Disney is looked at as a model business for others to learn from and emulate. In fact, businesses pay many thousands of dollars to send their employees to the Disney Institute to learn the company’s insights. And with more than 135 million people passing through the company’s parks and resorts each year, Disney has perfected the art of customer service recovery to create happy and loyal customers.

Their approach to service recovery is a five-step process, easily remembered with the acronym H.E.A.R.D:

• Hear

• Empathize

• Apologize

• Resolve

• Diagnose

1) Hear: Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Often when we’re upset, we just need someone to listen.

2) Empathize: Empathy is one of the most critical customer service skills you can possess. It’s the ability to deeply understand the thoughts and emotions of your customer, and making sure that they know that, too. You can use phrases like “I’d be upset too” or “I can see why you’d be frustrated.”

3) Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough for screw ups. In one study at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, 37% of customers were satisfied with service recovery when they were offered something of monetary value (e.g., a refund or credit). But when the business added an apology on top of the compensation, satisfaction doubled to 74%.

4) Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly. This can only be done if your employees have the authority to do what it takes in terms of compensation, so make sure you’re empowering your team to act. If you’re not sure exactly what sort of compensation or resolution would be appropriate, ask the customer: What can I do to make this right? By showing an eagerness to do right by them, you can begin to bridge the gap between your customer’s dissatisfied state and where you want them to be.

5) Diagnose: Once the customer is satisfied, get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone. Remove any personal guilt and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.

Customer Service Misses Are Opportunities, Not Outcomes.


Categorized as Media

Dealing with Difficult People: Handling unhappy customers

Running a business or working in an office, you cannot expect that your work will always be perfect. Mistakes are bound to happen. And when mistakes happen, customers or clients or managers are bound to be unhappy with you. You thus find yourself in an uncomfortable and difficult situation. It is up to you, however, how well you can deal with the situation and handle the difficult people restoring your reputation.

On the last day of his trip, James — or, more accurately, his company — paid extra for a late checkout so that he could stay in his room to be on an important sales call. Knowing that he would need privacy, he hung the Do Not Disturb sign on his door right before the call. Sure enough, 20 minutes into James’ call, there’s a loud knock on his door.

He was distracted, but he ignored the knock, hoping that whoever was knocking would go away. Then came another loud knock. Just as he was excusing himself from the call (no doubt to the dismay of his boss) to answer the door, a hotel housekeeper slid their keycard into the lock and pushed the door open. As soon as she saw James with his headphones on, she apologized and left, but the damage was done.

The interruption had potentially cost him an important sale (though fortunately, it didn’t), and it ruined his experience at the hotel. James went down to speak with the hotel manager before he checked out. What happened next surprised him, to say the least: The manager listened to James’ entire story. Did he need the details about how important James’ call was? Of course not. But James was upset, and the manager understood that.

He also understood how important it was for James to feel like he was being heard, so he let James rant until he got everything out. Next, the manager apologized profusely. He took responsibility for the error, noting how upset he would be himself if the same thing had happened to him. He admitted that it was probably a training issue and that he would work with the housekeeping staff to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Already, James was cooling off a bit. But then, the manager went a step further. He offered James a free night certificate that could be used at any hotel in the entire chain. In just a few minutes, James went from being a furious customer to a satisfied, loyal one. By the end of the meeting, he was brushing the issue off as a minor hiccup, even pointing out to the manager that housekeeping had been excellent throughout his stay, and asking that no disciplinary action be taken against the one who came into his room. According to James, she’s still there.

This happened in Seattle, and James continues to return to the same hotel by choice because of the way they recovered from their mistake.

Marketing professors Michael McCollough and Sundar Bharadwaj call this the service recovery paradox. The service recovery paradox is the result of a very positive service recovery, causing a level of customer satisfaction and/or customer loyalty even greater than that expected if no service failure had happened. Simply put, mistakes happen. They’ve always happened, and they always will happen. Good customer service isn’t about completely eliminating mistakes — a near-impossible task — but about leveraging the opportunity created by a mistake to build a deeper relationship with your customer.


Categorized as Media

Dealing with Difficult People: Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is a serious health and safety issue. The targets of bullying may suffer from physical and mental health problems that can last for many years. Bullying behavior also has serious consequences for businesses, including reduced production and failure to achieve workplace goals.

Belinda was an educator, working for Cynthia, creating materials for elementary and secondary students. As Belinda recorded uncomfortable events in her journal, she realized that Cynthia had initiated harsh, mean feedback both professionally and personally—about every third day. Sometimes the feedback had merit, but too many times it resulted in a psychological war that impacted other employees. Nobody was happy. The realization of the third day routine was the tipping point. What Belinda had thought was disciplinary incidents were actually workplace adult bullying stories.

According to Dr. Gary Namie and Dr. Ruth Namie in, Workplace Violence and Disruptive Behavior in Washington Psychiatric Settings, “Bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved.” Emotional and social harm is an outcome, resulting from non-physical emotional violence and abuse. Other people may see it more clearly than the victim. That is when you are facing adult bullying stories.

What did that mean? Belinda was proud that she was a long-term employee who could work for Cynthia. She sent several gifted friends to work for Cynthia, but those relationships lasted no more than a few months. “You are such a saint, putting up with Cynthia,” her friends said. Belinda thought it was a compliment, but it was not. It was a wake up call. Because Belinda’s financial well being was at stake, Belinda chose to be compliant.

According to a public television broadcast, This Emotional Life, which documented adult/workplace bullying. “Different from constructive criticism or conflict, bullying is persistent, it focuses on a person rather than a task.” The victim questions his or her ability to resolve the issue, does not know how to talk about it, how to tell the story, worries about who will believe him or her, may not have the documentation needed, along with a persistent fear that the bullying will escalate until a job is lost, a reputation is maligned, or there is violence and retaliation.

Cynthia’s assigned projects to several writers, projects as important as grade level workbooks—but provided no creative or philosophical direction. Her deadlines would come to maturity in a couple of weeks—all Cynthia wanted was a cut and paste job. Then she wondered why they didn’t work. The only feedback was a standard response, “It’s good, I think we’re headed in the right direction.” That meant Cynthia hadn’t looked at the material. As the project neared completion, she would berate the creators for being so far off track. As a result the employees did multiple rewrites—in a frenzy of hurry. Cynthia was insulting, raging at the writers, individually or collectively. These are not unusual workplace bullying stories.

In a study reported in Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior: What Everyone Needs to Know “U.S. workers, 41.4% of respondents, reported experiencing psychological aggression at work in the past year, representing 47 million U.S. workers” (Schat, Frone & Kelloway, 2006). Their research suggests that 13% or 15 million workers experience bullying in the workplace.

The study on Adult Bullying Stories identified behaviors that were psychologically aggressive. Those include:

1. Unwarranted or invalid criticism

2. Blame without factual justification

3. Being treated differently

4. Being sworn at

5. Exclusion or social isolation

6. Being shouted at or being humiliated

7. Excessive monitoring or micro-managing

8. Being given unrealistic work deadlines

Belinda chose to leave Cynthia’s business, after a disrespectful incident, amid growing realizations that Cynthia was a corporate bully. Belinda found work quickly.

What are your options with these Adult Bullying Stories? First, you need to be clear about what is happening; journal about the incidents over time, perhaps three to six months. Look for repeating patterns of behavior. Second, tell your story in appropriate ways through the appropriate channels. You gather support from your Human Resources department or employee assistance program. Allow your company the first opportunity to make this right. They might not believe your story—for a while. But your documentation will help. Do not give them the originals. Third, corporations are loathe to bring in the police or the attorneys, although employees need to know that is a possibility—if there is violence, substance abuse, or threats. They will focus first on counseling and education. Then corrective action. Fair enough. Lastly, look for another job. Bullying leads to ineffectiveness and loss in productivity in the workplace, along with depression and anxiety. Best to make preparations for your own safety, productivity, and well being.


Categorized as Media

Dealing with Difficult People – Handling Workplace bullies

It is unfortunate that we live in a world where many are victims of bullying. We are witnessing a trend where age no longer matters when it comes to bullying, and it is no longer merely a dispute between two children on the playground or one child always taking another child’s lunch money. Bullying can now be observed among adults, including while at work; therefore, it is important to understand what is workplace bullying?

The Workplace Bullying Institute, defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.” The bully can intimidate the target through verbal abuse, offensive behavior and even sabotaging the targets job.

Feeling threatened by a fellow co-worker often leads to a person to truly believe that his or her job is in danger because of the co-worker, they become the bully to save his or her own job. In the mind of the perpetrator, keeping the target controlled reduces the level of threat for the job he or she currently holds. Frequently, this type of behavior escalates to involve others who end up siding with the bully, either voluntarily or because they themselves were bullied into it. In many cases, the target is afraid to say something or to report this type of behavior for fear of retaliation from the oppressor.

After understanding what is workplace bullying, we can take a look at some early warning signs. You may be the target of bullying if you experience any of the following either at home with family or at work:

• Feeling sick and being tempted to call in sick to work on a regular basis

• Family members notice an unhealthy obsession with work while at home

•Experiencing high blood pressure in addition to other health issues

• Feeling too ashamed to admit being controlled by someone at work

• Using paid time off from work is for “mental health breaks”

• Feeling exhausted and lifeless during time away from work

• No longer enjoying favorite family activities

• Feeling you provoked the cruelty at work

• Attempting to do things you obviously cannot do and are told your work is never good enough for your employers/superiors

• Surprise meetings being to accomplish nothing else but to humiliate you more

• Co-workers expressing they have been told to stay away from you

• Constantly feeling agitated or anxious

• Never being able to do your job without interference

•You are yelled at/humiliated in front of others

• Being told by human resources that your harassment claim is not illegal and that you will have to work it out, but when you do try you are accused of harassment

• Always having your transfer requests denied

Workplace bullying can happen to anyone. It is not like schoolyard bullying, when children are targeted because they are introverts without any friends to help them stand up against the bullies. In the workplace, those who are targeted by the bully pose a threat of some sort. The bully may fear their coworker working harder or better than he or she is and that you could one day take their job.

Career Builder conducted a survey in 2012 and found that 35% of workers said that they have been victims of workplace bullying. 16% of those who claimed they were bullied reported suffering from health-related problems because of their job, whereas 17% said they eventually resigned from their jobs. Bullying in the workplace can come not only from the boss, but also from fellow coworkers, customers and those higher up in the company. Of those who felt they have been bullied in the survey, 48% said it was from their bosses, 45% felt it was from their coworkers. More than half reported they were bullied by someone older than they were, and 29% said their bully was much younger.

The same survey revealed that the most common way workers are claiming to have been bullied was getting blamed for mistakes they did not make. Other bullying tactics found from the survey include being ignored, rumors and gossip being spread, belittling comments, stealing credit for work you did and purposely being excluded from projects or meetings you should legitimately be a part of.

If you feel you are being bullied in the workplace you need to take a look at all of the symptoms and review the definition of what is workplace bullying. After learning what is workplace bullying and if you truly believe you are a target of workplace bullying you need to:

• Keep a record of all incidents, including places, times, who was there, who was bullying and where it occurred.

• Talk to the bully. Explain that you feel you are being treated unfairly. He or she may not be aware they are making you feel this way.

• Focus on a resolution. Center you discussions around how you want to improve the working situation or how things can be handed differently.

• If you or someone you know is a target of a workplace bully, contact your human resources department or boss immediately. The sooner you find a solution, the sooner you can resolve any workplace issues.


Categorized as Media

Series on Dealing with Difficult People – Corporate Bullying

We might not frequent playgrounds at lunch anymore, but that does not mean we have left everything reminiscent of those times behind. Call someone a bully, and usually the image evoked is a mean kid ruling the playground with the brute force of his fists, or a cruel girl with a sharp tongue to inflict more pain than a fist ever could. And while bullies grow up, they don’t always change. That girl who relied on gossip and put-downs to get ahead? She might sit in the cubicle next to yours. That guy that took pleasure in picking on those weaker than him? He might sit in the big corner office.

Bullying in the workplace is on the rise, according to research, yet few companies have policies in place to deal with this “silent epidemic”. Those that do often fail to carry them out properly. Michael Mercieca kept the faith and after seven years finally saw the courts order Microsoft to pay for bullying him to a near breaking point. The judge in the Texas employment labor law case, Tim Sulak, has issued a Final Judgement ordering Microsoft to pay $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees. Judge Sulak found the tech giant guilty of “acting with malice and reckless indifference” in an organized office retaliation against salesman Mercieca.

The story began sometime before 2007 when Mercieca ended a relationship with a woman who went on to become his boss. Conditions at work began to change for him. Even though Mercieca went to the human relations department at Microsoft, the company did not act and allowed the behaviors to continue and even to escalate.

In addition to complaining about his own treatment in the workplace, Mercieca directly complained to Microsoft icon Steve Ballmer about sexist and racist comments made in the office by VP Eddie O’Brien.

“I wrote directly to Ballmer and told him what O’Brien said after the tsunami in Japan,” says Mercieca. “He said, ‘I would have zero pity for Japan. I would throw them right under the bus and create another tsunami if I have to.” That complaint to Ballmer, Mercieca maintains, was another reason his co-workers began to isolate him and make the workplace hostile toward him.

Mercieca and his legal team of two lawyers were up against 250 lawyers that Microsoft set to work on the case. Despite that, Mercieca and his lawyers Roy Pollack and Paul T. Morin of Austin, Texas, four years of litigation and some 90,000 documents eventually won the day.

“Rather than do the right thing, the management team went after Michael by getting a female employee to file a sexual harassment complaint and a complaint of retaliation against him,” says Paul T. Morin. “Microsoft could have taken Mercieca’s charges seriously and disciplined the senior manager but instead it engaged in the worst kind of corporate bullying.”


Categorized as Media