Book Review – Dealing With Difficult People By Roy Lilley

Difficult peopleDealing with difficult people is a book that presents a lot of bite-sized information about how to deal with difficult people. For a book with just 140 pages it covers a lot of ground, but don’t expect in-depth coverage. The book though does take an interesting approach to discussing the topics. Each chapter focuses on a different area of handling difficult people and in 24 short chapters the book discusses areas such as:

  • Types of difficult people
  • Handling conflict
  • Dealing with angry bosses
  • Handling aggressive people and bullies
  • Dealing with moaners, perfectionists and manipulators
  • Working with lazy people, the egoist and fault finders

The range of difficult situations that the book covers is quite wide and interesting at the same time. Below is a brief review of what you can expect to learn in each chapter.

Chapter one – A short course in human relations: an introduction to the book and difficult people. It discusses what we need to understand to deal with difficult people and the importance of having a goal when you want to deal with a difficult person.

Chapter two – The seven classic difficult types: Discusses the seven different types of difficult people. Will give you some tips in how to recognise a difficult person.

Chapter three – A fast-track guide to conflict and how to handle it: a two page introduction to conflict and five possible ways people may respond to it.

Chapter four – Dealing with bosses who drive you barmy: if you’ve got a difficult boss, you might learn one or two things from this chapter. I like the counting backwards calming technique after your boss has wound you up and the advice on not letting your boss see you sweat.

Chapter five – Colleagues to throttle: some colleagues too may make you mad and you can’t get away from them easily. Some of the information in this chapter may help with that situation.

Chapter six – Staff to strangle: what about if you are a manager? How do you deal with difficult staff. Advice for managers in this chapter covers dealing with staff that are:

  • Stubborn
  • Clockwatchers
  • Poor performers

Chapter seven – Massaging the egoist: focuses on handling egomaniac managers and staff. Here are three tips:

  •  Flatter an egomaniac manager when possible, but keep your distance from them,
  • Let the egomaniac team member know you care about team performance,
  • If you deal with an egomaniac colleague or know-it-all, ask them to back up their claim. It may also help for you to have your facts ready.

Chapter eight – Handling aggressive people without getting thumped on the nose: introduces aggression in the work place and then tackles three situations that could involve aggression which are:

  1. How to handle a manager trying to drown out your ideas,
  2. Giving you a project that won’t work so you will take the blame when it fails,
  3. Being stabbed in the back.

Chapter nine – Putting a bomb under the lazy ones: if you work with a lazy colleague this may help. Categories of lazy people described are:

  • Clock watchers
  • Idle colleagues
  • Bosses who loiter

I like these two tips:

  1. Where possible, don’t wait for lazy bosses to do the job – do it yourself,
  2. Break down huge tasks for lazy people to deal with so they feel they progress through a to-do list more quickly.

Chapter ten – Beating the bullies at their own game: some quick advice on how to deal with bullies at work whether its a boss or colleague.

Chapter eleven – Moaners, groaners and critics: how do you deal with critical bosses and colleagues? One good piece of advice I got from this chapter is that if your boss criticizes your work and the facts are not on your side, admit the issue and agree to correct it, don’t argue.

Chapter twelve – Perfectionists can be a pain: while perfectionists can be very valuable they can also be a pain. They can become time wasters holding back projects. Roy suggests two ways to work with them:

  1. Don’t try to beat them at their own game,
  2. Remind them if the big picture.

Chapter thirteen – Manipulating the manipulators: you may find yourself working with manipulators at work. In this chapter three types of manipulators are discussed, those who set you up, promise you deals that are deceptive and the people who falsely flatter you. Two tips are:

  1. Don’t become a manipulator in order to deal with a manipulator,
  2. If a manipulator flatters you, find out what their real motive is while sticking to the job.

Chapter fourteen – Shifting the stubborn: this chapter is about people set in their ways, those who don’t like to do things differently. According to Roy, deal with them by trying to understand their point of view and recruiting allies to influence them.

Chapter fifteen – Morale, attitude, and how was it for you? The focus of this chapter is low morale. What it is, how it affects people and teams and some things to do about it are discussed.

Chapter sixteen – Fault-finders and nit-pickers: how do you deal with fault-finding and nit-picking colleagues? Not straight forward. But maybe getting close to them, asking for their opinion and advice may help. And if it’s your boss, asking for clear and specific feedback may do the trick. All part of the short advice in this chapter.

Chapter seventeen – Gossip – a bush fire you can do without: if you work in a cesspool of gossip then, as short as this chapter is, you will find it valuable. It describes the two sources of gossip, and gives an answer to gossip problems. But it reiterates that preventing gossip in the first place is far more effective than trying to cure it, and having a good communication strategy can help with this.

Chapter eighteen – The customer is always tight – really? Okay the customer is not always right, but you have to deal with them appropriately. This is one of the longer chapters in the book with information on different types of difficult customers and how to handle them. Some suggestions include:

  • Good communication is necessary for dealing with difficult customers,
  • Don’t get into screaming battles with customers,
  • Avoid over-promising and under-delivering.

Chapter nineteen – Complaints, we love them: here you will learn a six step process to deal with complaints:

  1. Listen
  2. Symphatize
  3. Don’t justify
  4. Make notes
  5. Agree a course of action
  6. Follow through

Chapter twenty – e-difficult@yourplace: email has made it easier for people to harass each other via electronic media by sharing smutty jokes, lewd pictures and unacceptable stories. In an office environment this is something we need to guide against as they can lead to trouble including legal issues. Six suggestions are given to face this potential problem head on. Four of them are:

  • Use on-screen messages to remind staff about the office email policy,
  • Let them know that email is not confidential. It can be monitored,
  • Bar the transmission of digital gossip and nonbusiness correspondence,
  • Set up in-house training to make staff aware of the rules.

Chapter twenty-one: Social networking: this is another chapter with relatively more content and that is understandable as we live in a social media world. Most of the content in the chapter focuses on dealing with cyber-bullying.

Chapter twenty-two – If things don’t change they’ll stay the same: the short information in this chapter is about dealing with difficult people in times of change.

Chapter twenty-three – Dealing with conflict – 10 steps to cooling it: here you are given ten summary steps on how to deal with conflict. Some of them are:

  • Manage aggression face to face,
  • Use the phrase ‘I understand’ but with care,
  • Accept when you are angry but don’t shift the responsibility of your emotions to someone else.

Chapter twenty-four – And, finally, finally…: don’t just think about difficult people. Think about people who make you happy and use hand written notes to appreciate people even if it seems out dated.

Though a small book it has a lot of useful information and as the author did specify at the start, this is not one to read cover to cover. Look up the table of contents, identify sections that might be useful to you, dip in and dip out. One session I found useful was the description of the seven types of difficult people. In my next post I will write a summary of all seven. You might find it useful too.

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