Caving into Destructive Behavior of difficult personalities by sticking your head in the sand and hoping that the problems will go away is a sure way to sabotage your impact.

Dealing with Difficult People

As a manager in the healthcare industry, there will often be times when you’ll have to deal with different types of difficult people. These people may be within your organization, such as employees, your peers, or your boss. Regardless of who they are, it is essential that you deal with these difficult people in a way that brings about the most significant impact from you and the areas you manage.

Dealing with difficult people is a skill that many managers in the healthcare industry don’t possess. Managers tend to view the Destructive Behaviors of these individuals as though they are infrequent enough to avoid. Others see the patterns of Destructive Behaviors but do not know how best to address the situations.
High Impact Managers, on the other hand, have the confidence, tools, and knowledge for addressing Destructive Behaviors. They know that these behaviors must be addressed immediately, even if doing so is unpleasant.

Caving into Destructive Behavior of difficult personalities by sticking your head in the sand and hoping that the problems will go away is a sure way to sabotage your impact.

The objective is to eliminate Destructive Behaviors that are roadblocks to the desired trusting, cohesive, and respectful working dynamics required that make healthcare organizations more successful. How you address negative patterns of behavior is the key.


You need to avoid spur of the moment responses. Do not respond if your emotions are running high. Stop and consider the 24-hour rule if they have gotten under your skin and you are agitated. Nothing good will come from you, addressing their unacceptable behavior with your own inappropriate behavior.

Before you act, develop a calm, well thought out strategy and technique that will be most effective at transforming the situation into something more constructive. The method and techniques you select to employ will ideally result in minimizing and eventually correct these negative patterns of behavior. When evaluating alternative strategies and techniques, you should consider your working relationship with the other person in addition to the type of behavior exhibited.
For example, the best way to deal with a disrespectful employee is likely not to be the best way to deal with the same behavior exhibited by your boss.

The same patterns of destructive behavior may be found in Difficult People in every type of working relationship. How you should deal with these difficult people will differ significantly depending upon the kind of working relationship you have with the person.

You will face 3 difficult people in four types

Part One: Your Employees
Part Two: Your Peers
Part Three: Your Bosses
Part Four: Patients

For this blog, let’s look first at some common types of behaviors exhibited by your employees and how to address them.


There are some behaviors of employees that require swift and robust action that comes down to cut it out or leave basically. If you don’t take quick and decisive action with employees displaying these behaviors, you will lose the respect of other employees and your peers. This primarily comes from their not understanding why the person has not been dealt with. You lose the efficiency of your department because others in it will likely dislike working with the person who has these behaviors.

It is important to take immediate action. It is unproductive for you to slowly and patiently deal with these challenging individuals and their behavior

Types of Difficult Behavior

Passive Aggressive

  • They don’t share their honest view when asked
  • They tell you what they believe you want to hear
  • They do not follow through with plans, procedures, and projects that they disagree with, and have not said to you that they disagree
  • They resist change but do not express their feelings
  • They nod in agreement but internally disagree
  • They refuse to notify you of their dissatisfaction with you or the company
  • They take part in gossip but not in confrontation

Hold them accountable. When you fail to hold a passive-aggressive person responsible for their actions, you unintentionally perpetuate their behavior. Passive-aggressive behavior is often more about asserting control than about a genuine preference. You need to stand your ground or risk getting walked over.

The person who responds with anger

Don’t ignore or avoid this the person. You should be open to listening to what they have to say.

Your goal is to keep your voice calm when they’re upset and allow their aggressive emotion to drain.

  • Try to talk things through.
  • Acknowledge their distress but don’t feel like you have to back down if you disagree. …
  • Avoid pushing advice or opinions on them.
  • Let them know that the way they are behaving is unacceptable, and they must control themselves in the future

If it is chronic, it is a sign of lack of control, and this can be horrible in the eyes of a patient. They only reason they do this is that they have been allowed to for a very long time. They must change, or you must make a decision

Constant Complainer

When kids don’t get what they want, it’s temper tantrum time. Well, guess what? We never fully outgrow that. Ever notice that people become difficult when their needs are not being met?

In truth, they have a deep need to be heard. We all do. Most calm and rational people just manifest it in more constructive ways.  We all want our vote to count and our voice to matter. However, when this is deprived, we can lash out to get our way.

This person is continually being dismissed. Everyone says to them, “Stop being so negative all the time.” or “You’re such a pessimist!” Their only play is to respond with the classic, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” In other words, “Hear me! What I’m saying matters!”

  • Do morethan just listen and nod
  • You must make an effort to hear them
  • Acknowledge them by being open to their feedback, and they will sometimes back off on the frequency.
  • You must set and enforce the standard that you are willing to hear problems and complaints, but they must also create and bring solutions

Even though their own work may not be affected, the complaining employee “virus” will affect you and the others who work with the complainer. If the complaining is allowed to continue unchecked, it may also become contagious, with some of the others who work with the complaining employee becoming chronic complainers. This will not be limited to the peers of the employee. Your clients and patients will hear them too.

Responds Poorly to Stress

The way your employees react to frustration and disappointment due to common challenges has a significant impact on the working dynamics between you, your employee and your team. For you and your employee to operate most effectively together, the two of you have to learn to respond jointly to stressful situations with mutually respectful working dynamics.

If you feel your employee is stressing out about something that has gone wrong, try calming things down by explaining that you recognize your employee’s feelings. Next, you should try to restate your employee’s perspective before you try to inform him or her about how you see the facts. Explain what you think your employee’s point of view is in a calm, even tone of voice: “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You feel that…” Restate what you believe to be your employee’s primary “hot buttons” without editorializing. Your words should bring about a confirmation of how your employee sees the situation. For instance: “So, if I’m hearing you correctly, you feel like the schedule is not being managed effectively, and the project is out of control.”

  • Restate your employee’s viewpoint in words that he or she would actually endorse
  • Even if you feel your employee is overreacting to a problem, let your employee know you understand how he or she is feeling
  • Then discuss how the two of you might be able to do some things to reduce workplace stress.
  • Help them to recognize there’s a problem. It’s easier to spot signs of stress in other people than it is to see them in ourselves. …
  • They need to know how they can be affecting others around them
  • Listen
  • Offer reassurance
  • Help them identify their triggers
  • Offer practical support

They must understand in the end that you will not tolerate this type of behavior in the future. It is up to them to control their emotions. Let them know how their outbursts hurt the entire team and patients.

The one simple step of discussing a stressful reaction will often resolve many of your instances of this pattern of behavior.

Someone who plays the blame game

This pattern of behavior involves your employees not accepting responsibility for being wrong, and, in extreme cases, an inability ever to admit making a mistake at all.

What they don’t realize or don’t care about is that this pattern of behavior causes people around them to lose respect for them. As the manager of this person, you must accept responsibility for being part of the problem. You may never have established a policy of required self-accountability, or you may have sent the wrong message to your employees that not being accountable is acceptable.

This is one area where your personal accountability is critical. If you are personally accountable for your work and actions, you will be in a much better position when discussing accountability issues with your employee.

High Impact results for your department will not be achieved unless all your employees accept responsibility for whatever they commit to.  They need to know what the consequences are if they do not take personal accountability for their actions and responsibilities.

If you avoid dealing with the problem, you will sabotage your effectiveness as a leader. So, what should you do to try to get your employee to stop trying to deflect accountability for their mistakes, a lack of self-accountability?

It is best to make people aware of your feelings about this behavior as soon as you see it. When you avoid directly confronting an employee whom you know is not accepting responsibility, you are communicating that you accept their lack of accountability. This is not a good look to the rest of your team. You are communicating that you accept an employee’s lack of accountability when you avoid directly confronting them about not taking responsibility.

When you have a employee who is not self-accountable, the best way to give a clear message of accountability. Make the message encouraging but direct. Confront the employee using a head-on communications approach. Point out they are eroding the productivity and morale of those who work around them.

It’s easier to blame someone else than it is to accept our own (often overwhelming) faults. It’s also easier to cast ourselves in the role of the victim when faced with a blame shifter.

  • The best first step in a conflict is to acknowledge your own contribution
  • Even if the other person is wrong. Wait What?
  • Why? Because this removes the blame shifter’s weapon.
  • You cannot assume a position of strength without making yourself vulnerable.
  • When someone shifts the blame, that’s a good signal that they’re coming from a place of weakness.
  • Don’t accept blame or try to fix things for them when you’ve done nothing wrong.
  • Watch coming at them too hard.
  • They will redouble their attacks if you begin by focusing on their faults.

If a person doesn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, they may try to blame others. They are insecure and therefore possess an extremely fragile ego. They do not accept blame as a safeguard to their vulnerability by reacting to a perceived attack defensively.

From deep within, they’ll feel compelled to deflect all criticism. We have all had to deal with someone who doesn’t hold themselves accountable.  Unless they are willing to change and make the commitment to work on themselves, you might as well try to communicate with a brick wall.

It sounds harsh, but the reality of it is, you are in a no-win situation. It is best to stay away from people who suck the life out of you by choosing to blame you for their horrible life. If they are unwilling to change their behavior and, most often, they are not, move on. Replace them and make sure in your interviews to replace them that you are looking for signs of this destructive behavior.


This employee is late for shifts and often can’t meet a commitment timeline. In some cases, even showing up for meetings on time is a struggle. This destructive behavior results in a loss of respect for the employee and you for permitting it to occur. This behavior often creates a financial impact on the organization. You should point out what this behavior choice costs the organization in terms of dollars and cents and how you know this.

Chronically late people aren’t trying to annoy or disrespect you. In fact, it has nothing to do with you

What you need to change is your approach, because it’s unlikely that they will permanently eliminate the behavior. And, if you’re offended by it, don’t be.

Unless you’re dealing with someone who practices passive control and feels the world revolves around them, the behavior is not a reflection of how they feel about you. Or. Even the level of respect they have for you. (See Passive Aggressive Above) This is about them and their internal processing system, and it’s defective.

The act of multitasking can overwhelm this individual, which results in them losing track of time. Multitaskers will also fall prey to an irresistible temptation to do just one more thing before hitting the road.

Studies have shown The more highly organized, ambitious, and impatient, Type A personalities estimated that a minute passed in 58 seconds. The more laid-back Type B personality perceives that a minute passes in 77 seconds. That 18-second difference can add up. Apparently, there’s a bit of truth in your accusation that your consistently late friend “can’t tell time.” The B personality cannot accurately judge how long a task can take.

Generally, if they are to improve, they need to know how it affects you and others. How it can and is being perceived as disrespectful.

In most cases, they don’t think about this. They’ve generally been this way all their lives.

  • Hold them accountable
  • Share with them the impact morale wise and financially
  • Let them know how their lack of timeliness is effecting their peers and other employees
  • You must call them out and hold them accountable for the good of your sanity and the team’s cohesiveness.
  • Know that they can be “sprinters” and can often fix the issue for short periods just to fall back to old habits in 60 or 90 days.
  • When you discuss the issue with them, you must convey that you expect their inability to be on time to be permanently fixed.

High Impact Healthcare Managers deal with these types of difficult people very proactively, rather than practicing avoidance and hoping that the problem will go away.

Documentation is also a critical part of correcting their destructive behaviors. Capture your conversations in writing on the appropriate form. Have the employee date and sign it. If they refuse? Note that they refused and start looking for a replacement. They just told you this is not going to get better in not so many words.

The ninja trick to correcting these behaviors is to have the problematic employee write an action plan for improvement. Do NOT tell them how to improve their actions. They must come up with solutions and commitments. You gain buy-in and a higher level of commitment to a positive, permanent solution if it is their solution.

Attach their action plan to the written coaching or correction form and keep it in their file. It is then incumbent on you to now catch them when they are doing things that are a significant improvement to their old destructive behavior. Create a monthly face to face meeting with the employee and discuss their action plan achievement with them. Not during that discussion, specifically what you have seen them positively achieving.

On the flip side, if in 30 days you do not see a significant improvement, they must be told this. Then you must start the process of recruiting a replacement. Note in another written form the fact that they are not executing their own action plan, and if in the next 30 days, improvement to satisfactory levels has not been achieved, further disciplinary action will be taken up to and including termination. They have to know you are serious. So does the rest of your team. How will the team know you are taking these disciplinary steps? Oh, believe me, the destructive employee will let them know.


Don’t allow yourself to be overcome by emotions when dealing with a difficult employee. It is essential to keep control of your temper while you are setting the record straight. Especially if the employee does not keep his or her temper, It is imperative that you do not show anger. Don’t “let off steam” during these exchanges. Especially don’t resort to yelling or hostile behavior during your discussions of the destructive behavior.