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How To Deal With Difficult People At Work: 5 Ways To Disarm Toxic People

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    Dealing with difficult people at work is a challenge that many of us have to face at some point in our careers. Whether it’s a toxic coworker or an employee with a strong personality, it can be tough to know how to handle the situation without making it worse.

    Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to disarm difficult people and create a more positive work environment. Here are five effective ways to deal with difficult people at work that you will not have heard of before. They are based on psychological triggers that are known to produce behavior change in people.

    What Strong Personalities Are Usually Looking For

    Strong personalities are often looking for authenticity, clarity, and confidence. They want to be able to trust the person they’re working with and believe that they’re being told the truth. They also want to know what they’re getting into and what’s expected of them. Lastly, they want to feel confident that the person they’re working with is competent and capable of delivering results.

    So instead of focusing on complicated techniques, focus on being authentic, clear, and confident in your communication. Be transparent about what you want and expect, and always follow through on your promises. By doing so, you’ll gain the trust and respect of those with strong personalities and be better equipped to persuade them.

    Challenges With Difficult Employees

    Dealing with difficult employees can be a challenging task for any manager. It’s a situation that no one likes to face, and often the first reaction of the employee is to become defensive and argumentative. However, allowing a toxic employee to disrupt the workplace can be detrimental to productivity and employee morale. As a manager, it’s crucial to address the situation and handle it effectively.

    If you have struggled with managing difficult employees, know that you are not alone. The good news is that there are steps you can take to disarm and address problematic behavior. By following a plan and using effective psychological tactics, you can manage the situation and create a positive work environment.

    Girl in a black jacket crying with her hand on her head in front of a sliver laptop facing a difficult situation at work.

    How To Deal With Difficult People and Disarm Them

    Managing difficult people can be even more challenging when managing them remotely. When dealing with difficult people, it is essential to approach the situation with patience and an open mind. Rather than trying to fix them, it’s important to let them think you are on their side. This approach will help build trust and create a more positive working relationship.

    It’s important to understand that every decision we make is first made in our subconscious and is later supported with reasoning. This cognitive process often creates an illusion of choice, where our conscious mind creates a story around the decision that our subconscious had already made.

    But by understanding this process, we can employ counter-intuitive approaches that work with difficult direct reports. Here are some that work well.

    1. Make Them Think the Fault Lies Elsewhere

    One effective way to disarm difficult people is to make them think that the fault lies elsewhere. When a person learns that they are not to blame for an outcome, it can help them relax and become more open to feedback. To do this, you can identify genuine issues that hinder most people in similar situations, or problems within the process or system, and place the blame there.

    By doing this, people are more motivated to find solutions and improvements, without feeling like they are personally responsible for the issue. This can help them move in the right direction without feeling like they are being scrutinized or dragged down. It is an easy and effective way to shift the focus away from personal blame and towards finding a solution to the problem.

    2. Don’t Try To Shake Their Worldview

    Attempting to challenge someone’s worldview is rarely successful, especially with difficult individuals. People tend to construct a version of themselves that they want to see, and breaking that illusion is difficult. Therefore, it is essential not to try to shake their worldview.

    Rather than trying to challenge their perspective, it is more productive to confirm even their most bizarre explanations. By acknowledging their perspective, you demonstrate that you respect their opinions and do not dismiss them outright. Doing so can help create a sense of trust and rapport that can be used to move the conversation forward.

    Remember that attempting to realign someone’s worldview is akin to telling them they are crazy. Such a tactic is unlikely to be successful and could lead to further resistance. By acknowledging their perspective, you can start to build a bridge towards a more productive conversation.


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    3. Identify and Remove Things That Are Interfering With Their Success

    After building a rapport with a difficult employee, it is important to identify and remove any obstacles that might be interfering with their success. Rather than giving direct feedback on their work, look for factors that could be hindering their progress.

    For instance, personal or home issues might be impacting their performance. Alternatively, they could be struggling with a software system or process, leading to procrastination and missed deadlines. Identifying and addressing these issues can go a long way in improving their productivity and overall job satisfaction. By doing so, you are not only helping the employee, but you are also removing roadblocks that could be affecting the rest of your team.

    4. Encourage Them To Be Their Best Selves

    Once you’ve identified and removed any obstacles to their success, focus on helping difficult team members improve their skills and grow in their roles. Look for even the slightest signs of improvement or effort, and make sure to praise them for it. You might even consider publicly acknowledging their progress, if appropriate.

    Use words and phrases that describe them in a positive light. Encourage them to live up to their new reputation. For example, if you introduce them to someone as one of your most reliable team members, they may be motivated to work even harder to maintain that status.

    Remember that everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. By helping difficult employees improve and grow, you’re not only benefiting the company, but also contributing to their personal development.

    5. Inspire Them and Encourage Their Dreams

    After acknowledging their negative behavior, it is crucial to inspire and encourage difficult employees to become top performers. In addition to correcting their behavior, it is important to help them achieve their aspirations and goals. Start by asking them about their inspirations and aspirations. This way, you can show them how to achieve these goals and help them to stay on the right path.

    Make sure they know that you will support them and be there to ensure their success. It is important to build a positive relationship with them. One that is based on trust, mutual respect, and support. By doing this, they will be more likely to open up and share their dreams and aspirations with you.

    Use this information to motivate them and inspire them to become their best selves. With your encouragement, they will be more likely to succeed and become top-performing employees.

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    Don’t Put Off Working On Difficult People In Your Group

    Dealing with difficult people at work can be a daunting task, but with the right mindset and approach, it can be overcome. As a manager, it is your responsibility to create a positive and healthy work environment, and dealing with difficult employees is a crucial part of achieving that goal.

    Remember that difficult employees are not necessarily bad employees. They may simply have personal or professional issues that are impacting their behavior. By taking the time to understand their underlying motivations and issues, and by implementing the steps outlined in this article, you can turn difficult employees into valuable and productive members of your team.

    It may take time, patience, and persistence, but the rewards are worth it. By disarming difficult employees and helping them overcome their obstacles, you can create a more harmonious workplace, boost morale, and improve productivity. So be bold, be courageous, and take the necessary steps to deal with difficult people at work. You have what it takes to make a positive difference in the lives of your employees and in the success of your organization.

    Final Thoughts On How To Deal With Difficult People At Work

    Start by identifying the things that might be blocking the person from meeting their goals. Look for both professional and personal obstacles that may be causing them stress or hindering their performance.

    Once you understand what’s causing the problem, try to get the person on your side. Make them feel like you’re working together to find a solution, rather than blaming them for the issue.

    Avoid challenging their worldview or making them feel crazy. Instead, confirm their perspective and help them see how their behavior may be contributing to the problem.

    Once you’ve established a rapport, focus on building the person up. Look for areas where they’re already doing well and praise them for their efforts. Use positive reinforcement to encourage them to continue improving.

    Finally, help the person set goals for themselves and find ways to achieve those goals. Let them know that you’re there to support them and that you want to see them succeed.

    How To Handle Difficult Customers

    Handling difficult customers can be a challenge, but it’s an essential part of any customer-facing role. The first step in dealing with difficult customers is to remain calm and professional. Try to listen to their concerns and empathize with their situation. This can help to deescalate any anger or frustration and create a more positive experience for both the customer and the employee.

    Another effective way to handle difficult customers is to provide them with options. Offer them different solutions to their problem and let them choose the one that works best for them. This can help to create a sense of control and empower the customer to find a solution that works for them.

    Dealing With A Difficult Boss

    Dealing with a difficult boss can be challenging, but it’s important to find a way to manage the situation. The first step is to try to understand why your boss is being difficult. Is it because of something you’ve done, or is it a personality clash? Once you have a better understanding of the situation, you can start to work on a plan to address it.

    One effective way to deal with a difficult boss is to focus on building a positive relationship. Try to find common ground and work together to achieve common goals. This can help to build trust and create a more positive work environment.

    How To Handle A Difficult Employee

    Handling a difficult employee can be a challenge, but it’s important to address the situation in a professional and constructive manner. The first step is to clearly communicate your expectations and provide feedback on their performance. Try to focus on specific behaviors rather than attacking the person.

    Another effective way to handle a difficult employee is to create a performance improvement plan. This can help to provide a clear roadmap for the employee to improve their performance and can also provide a framework for follow-up discussions and feedback.

    Dealing With Difficult Situations

    Dealing with difficult situations can be challenging, but it’s important to stay calm and focused. The first step is to assess the situation and understand the problem. Try to gather as much information as possible and identify any potential solutions.

    Another effective way to deal with difficult situations is to communicate clearly and honestly. Be transparent about the situation and communicate any potential risks or challenges. This can help to build trust and create a more positive outcome for everyone involved. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out advice from others. Sometimes an outside perspective can provide a fresh and valuable insight into a difficult situation.


    Dealing with difficult people at work can be a daunting task, but it’s also an opportunity to grow as a leader. And to transform difficult situations into positive outcomes. By adopting a proactive approach and following the steps outlined in this article, managers can disarm toxic employees. You can identify and remove obstacles to their success. And then inspire them to become better versions of themselves.

    Remember, dealing with difficult people is not just about fixing their behavior, it’s about creating a positive and productive work environment for everyone. Embrace the challenge, be patient, and stay committed to the process. With courage and determination, you can turn even the most challenging situations into opportunities for growth and success.

    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at [email protected].


    Leadership Development; Difficult Employees; Conflict Resolution; Psychological Triggers; Workplace Productivity; Personal Development

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