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Dealing With Today’s More Difficult People

Help them isolate the issues through good communication

Dave Hershman headshot
Dave Hershman
Dealing with difficult people

You just need to look at the news lately to realize that there are more difficult people out there. People are getting arrested for being unruly on airlines it seems almost every day. The number of incidents continues to climb incessantly. As a manager, today you are more likely to have to deal with difficult employees, plus you are more likely to have to counsel your employees who are dealing with difficult customers. It is just a sad, but true sign of the times.

Within my mortgage management books and seminars, I have often spoken of this important rule … 

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 more likely to be dealing with a difficult person. 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 poor processing or are they unhappy with something else? They may be unhappy with themselves and their performance. Or they may be causing inefficient processing because of the quality of their originations. 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, take 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 or overreact 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.

When 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 becomes 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?

 Again, most of this advice applies to your customers who are being difficult. Our loan officers need to handle their grievances much in the same way. The fact that production is lower feeds an environment that we are either originating loans with more difficult situations and/or tolerating abuse of employees by customers because we “need the business.” Lower production environments should give us more time to deal with difficult situations, but in reality they can give us more situations to deal with.

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine June 2023 issue.
Dave Hershman headshot
Dave Hershman

Dave Hershman is an author for the mortgage industry with eight books and several hundred articles to his credit. He is also senior vice president of sales for Weichert Financial Services, head of OriginationPro Mortgage School and a top industry speaker.

Published on
Jun 05, 2023
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