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Managing for the Future - Dealing With Difficult People

Dave Hershman
Dec 02, 2013

Some time ago, I wrote a column which addressed an important management rule. The rule is simply: Fire the Wrong People. A simple rule stated even more simply: If you hire the wrong people and keep them, you will never, never, never be a good manager. It is impossible to manage well with the wrong people. When you get in the position of analyzing who is “right” and who is “not right” for your office, you will be, in effect, dealing with a lot of difficult people. That does not mean that all people who are not succeeding are difficult. But even if someone is the nicest person in the world, if you have to correct their actions or take more serious disciplinary measures, it is, at best, a difficult situation. Sometimes it is easier to fire someone who is difficult as opposed to someone who is nice. So someone is difficult. How do you deal with them? First, find the source of difficulty If they are complaining all the time about poor processing, is it really poor processing or are they unhappy with something else? They may be unhappy with themselves and their performance. But they are not going to be wandering around complaining about themselves. They are going to complain about processing. Second, help them isolate the issues through good two-way communication Start with general, open-ended questions that get them talking. For example—you have mentioned several times that you are unhappy with . What has caused you to become unhappy, and if this situation were corrected do you feel that you could perform up to your potential? Just the fact that they have been heard may take away some of the stress associated with the situation. After the issue is isolated, takes steps to deal with the problem They may be handling the complaint in the wrong way, but it does not mean that there is not a problem that needs to be solved. Solving it helps you in two ways. First, it makes your office/company better. Second, it removes their barrier to better performance, whether the barrier was real or not. Follow-up After the barrier has been removed, do not let the person off the hook by letting them wander off. Let them know that you are expecting reciprocity. If they don’t see you making them accountable, then there is no reason for them to change their behavior. Do not get the idea that difficult people are just those who complain. There are many other types of difficult people. For example, those who do not listen and those who explode every time something goes wrong. Each situation entails a different process to resolve the issue. The ability to adapt to different situations is a management trait that is very important. It is also important to note that the hiring process and development of a company culture is all-important in preventing these situations before you get to the confrontational and/or firing stages.  Are outbursts by others tolerated because they may be seen as more valuable players? Even more important, are you the best example in this regard? If you can’t be the best example, then you will have a harder time dealing with difficult people and difficult situations. As rates rise and refinances dwindle, you will have more difficult personnel choices to implement. When production is flowing, personnel flaws may not stick out as much because everyone is so busy. When people have more time on their hands, it is easier to spot issues that need to be corrected. On the other side of the coin, if a loan officer is difficult but a good producer, it is tougher to cut the cord as production wanes. Therefore, it become more imperative for you to “address” the situation rather than just cut the cord. Most important of all, if you are harboring difficult people and not addressing the situation, you may be preventing great people from coming to your company. Many times I have heard this in the industry–I would not work at that company because I know        is there. Ask yourself this question: Is your present staff hampering your recruiting efforts? Dave Hershman is a top author in the mortgage industry with seven books published, including The Complete Mortgage Management Kit. Dave is also director of branch support for McLean Mortgage. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or visit
Dec 02, 2013