Help These Five People Be More Effective and Productive

“He is so stubborn and aggressive. I avoid him whenever I can.”

“She procrastinates on everything. She’s always late.”

You can’t change the difficult person, but you can change how you deal with them. 

General Points to Remember

Effective communication is always important, but even more important when dealing with difficult people—some general points to keep in mind. 

  • Be prepared—have a goal and plan.
  • Be specific. Stick to the facts.  
  • Ask questions to understand their point of view.  
  • Use active listening and paraphrase their key points.
  • Maintain positive facial expressions and body language.
  • Praise them when they show openness to feedback and willingness to change.

What would you add to my list?

Aggressive People

They like to dominate and control the situation. Aggressive people are the know-it-alls. These pugnacious types talk over people and are closed-minded. They believe their solution is the only way to go, often because they have their own insecurities.      

Tips for dealing with an aggressive person:

  • Name the behavior. “You’re yelling. Do you mean to?”
  • Match his position. If he is standing, then you stand.
  • Establish simple ground rules such as, “No yelling. No interruptions when speaking. I’ll listen to you for two minutes, but then you have to listen to me.”
  • Coach him on the importance of building positive relationships with his colleagues.

 What’s your best tip for dealing with aggressive people?


They are quick to complain, whine, and blame others for their problems. It’s never their fault. Victims like to engage in pity-parties. Their outlook is doom and gloom. They like to be the first ones to point out why something won’t work.   

Tips for dealing with a victim:

  • Quantify his complaints. Do you realize, in the last 60 seconds, you complained about four things?
  • Focus on the present and future. (Victims like to rehash what happened in the past.)
  • Ask him to identify his top problem and his plans to solve it. Don’t get bogged down in the minutia.
  • Coach him on the importance of being responsible and taking the initiative.

What’s approach do you use when dealing with victims?


They are the people who are always willing to help others. They are people-pleasers and want to be liked and feel appreciated. Their common response is, “Yes, I’ll help.” They want to be the hero and save the day. Rescuers don’t consider the time commitments for what they’re volunteering to do. Rescuers over-commit and don’t get their own work done.

Tips for dealing with a rescuer:

  • Remind him of what’s already on his plate.
  • Ask him, “If you were to take on this task, how much time will it take? When will you do it?”  
  • Help him learn to say “No to requests” without feeling guilty.  
  • Coach him on the importance of not overcommitting.    

How do you deal with rescuers?


They try to be perfect at everything. Perfectionists are demanding and set very high standards—all of the time. But, it’s impossible to be perfect at everything. The perfectionist needs to realize that it’s okay to do just “good” or “average” work on some tasks. The 80/20 rule applies. Eighty percent of most things don’t require perfection.

 Tips for dealing with a perfectionist:

  • Agree on deadlines as to when the work will be completed.
  • Explain the business consequences if his work is late.    
  • Praise him when he meets deadlines.
  • Coach him on which tasks require perfection and which ones do not. 

What advice do you have for dealing with perfectionists?   


They leave everything to the last minute. Procrastinators throw themselves and others into a panic to complete a task or project on schedule. They may have a fear of failure and definitely cause unnecessary stress.   

Tips for dealing with a procrastinator:

  • Break projects down into bite-size pieces.
  • Establish start dates and a deadline for project completion and follow-through on consequences when deadlines are not met.   
  • Monitor closely and praise him when he meets deadlines.  
  • Coach him on the importance of starting projects early and meeting all deadlines.

What tips do you have for working with procrastinators?

 Changing Behavior

People are more likely to change their behavior when they reach their own conclusions. So, after you provide your feedback, ask questions such as:

  • What do you think would make you more effective?
  • How do you feel about what I said?
  • What one change are you willing to make?
  • What trigger or reminder will you use to make that change?

People are more committed to making the changes they identify.


As a leader, your goal is to help all your employees perform at their best. Difficult people require clear expectations and direct feedback. Use the tips in this article to help them be more effective. 

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