As an IT manager, MSP, or CIO, you know that your IT team isn’t always dealing with people during their best moments. Frustrating tech problems, project setbacks, and stressful deadlines can bring out the worst in people – which means that as an IT manager, you need to ensure your team has the skills to navigate these challenging situations. Read on to learn the skills your IT team needs to effectively (and professionally) deal with difficult clients, customers, or coworkers.
Why Does My Team Need to Learn to Deal with Difficult People?
No matter how technology-focused your job is, people are always involved. And since people have human emotions that aren’t always predictable, you need to have skills to deal with people in difficult situations. Whether it’s a coworker with toxic traits, a customer who’s having a bad day, or a supervisor who’s struggling with their mental health, ensuring your team knows how to successfully navigate a challenging situation is necessary in today’s IT workplace.
Benefits of Learning to Deal with Difficult People
When your team learns how to deal with difficult people, they can take steps to de-escalate the situation rather than making the situation worse. As a result, your team will:
- Contribute to a healthier workplace culture
- Demonstrate skills for higher-level jobs or management positions
- Receive better customer feedback
- Develop better client relationships
- Enjoy improved productivity by being able to navigate challenging conversations
- Develop positive relationships with coworkers
What Makes Some People More Difficult Than Others?
It’s easy to lump all “difficult people” into one category, but no two people are the same. Some people are naturally combative, while others just find themselves in a frustrating situation and lash out. The reasons are as varied as the situations themselves. Some reasons people might be difficult include:
- Toxic traits or personality disorders
- Mental illness
- Workplace stress
- Dealing with a stressful situation in their personal life (like family/relationship stress, physical health problems, or financial difficulties)
When you’re working in IT customer service, you rarely have a person’s whole story. Remember that most “difficult people” are just ordinary people in a difficult moment and that we all have bad days or moments we’re not proud of. When your team encounters someone in one of these situations, do your best to encourage them to treat their client, coworker, or colleague the way you’d like to be treated – with compassion, respect, and professionalism.
Types of Difficult People
Difficult behavior varies between people, but here are three common categories where most behaviors fall:
1. Defensive: A defensive person does not take feedback or criticism well, which makes it difficult for them to acknowledge and discuss the real issue at hand. They may be defensive because they lack confidence, had a negative experience in the past, or are hiding something.
How to work with a defensive person: Choose your words carefully to avoid blame and accusations. Use “I” statements instead of “you,” and compliment them on things they do well.
2. Verbally Abusive: A verbally abusive person tries to control a situation with threats, personal insults, or condescending speech. They may shout and be explosive, or they may remain calm but use their words to bully other people into submission.
How to work with a verbally abusive person: Remain calm and don’t engage with their threats or spiteful comments. Maintain control of your own emotions to avoid escalating the situation further.
3. Argumentative: An argumentative person has a need to win. They typically don’t have good conflict resolution skills, so they focus on unimportant items and struggle to let go of the disagreement.
How to work with an argumentative person: Don’t argue about unimportant items and find ways to slow the conversation. Stay calm and recognize that the disagreement is not about you but more about the other person’s need to win.
Strategies to Deal with Difficult People
Here are some concrete techniques to help your IT team in a difficult situation.
Take a deep breath and stay calm. Getting angry or escalated yourself will not help resolve the situation. It will only cause things to escalate further.
Maintain a sense of humor. Sometimes a quick, lighthearted quip can break the tension and bring everyone back to the task at hand.
Maintain professionalism and treat the other person with respect. Keep control of your emotions and don’t get dragged into participating in unhealthy behavior. Treat others as you would like to be treated regardless of how they treat you.
Be compassionate and show empathy. Give the other person grace. Remember that their behavior could be caused by any number of situations, and you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Use good communication skills. Choose your words carefully, speak clearly, and be aware of your body language. An open stance will communicate that you want to work with a person to resolve the situation, while closed body language, poor eye contact, and contorted facial expressions will not invite collaboration.
Use good listening skills. Even if you know you won’t agree with someone, you can still hear what they have to say. Repeat what they’ve said back to them so they know you’re making an effort to find common ground.
Have an exit strategy. If a situation feels unsafe or too unproductive, it’s okay to end the interaction. Sometimes that means declaring that you’ll take a break and revisit the conversation later, sometimes it means inviting another person to handle the conflict, or sometimes it means physically leaving the space. Think about your exit strategy in advance, and give yourself mental permission to act upon it when you need to.
When to Escalate a Situation with a Difficult Person
Even though your job in IT customer service requires you to work with the occasional difficult personality, your team does not have to manage every situation on your own. Sometimes, they’ll need to escalate the situation to a higher level – most likely you, the team leader or supervisor. They’ll never have to endure verbal abuse, bullying, or feel physically unsafe. Sometimes, the situation isn’t unhealthy, but their attempts to manage it aren’t successful or productive. If your team feels like a situation is beyond their skill level, is getting out of control, or they just need help, be their support.
Customer Service Training for IT Professionals
An effective IT team has the skills to handle all situations they come across – and that includes dealing with difficult clients, customers, coworkers, and colleagues. Help your team develop the skills they need to work together, get things done, and take care of customers with Compassionate Geek’s IT online customer service training.
Next Level IT Customer Service Training
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