4 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Team Members


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March 2013 Volume 5 | Issue 3

Jennifer Bridges, PMP

We’re sometimes caught between a rock and hard place as project managers. We have all the responsibility of getting a project done but at the same time we have very little direct authority over the people that do the actual work! That’s just the way things are in the matrixed environments in many of our companies. Despite this fact, we’re able to complete projects on time, within budget, and in scope.

How is this done? It’s by our ability to adapt, influence and lead others, as well as communicate a clear vision of the future. These are vital skills that are essential to the success of any project manager.

This month’s PMP in Practice offers 4 suggestions from negotiation expert Ron Shapiro on how to influence others, even if they are hard to get along with. I know you’ll find these useful as you continue to advance your career as a PMP Project Manager!


Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt),

Founder – PDUs2Go.com

Making N.I.C.E as a PMP Project ManagerRon Shapiro is an expert negotiator and has negotiated on behalf of, or served as coach to, Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, as well as entertainment and news personalities. Ron Shapiro is frequently cited by parties representing each side in a negotiation as the ultimate “Win-Win” negotiator. The following are some of his suggestions on working with team members that may be “less than pleasant”.

At some point in your life you will have to deal with a difficult person. It may be when you least expect it or when you’ve been warned far in advance. Regardless of the situation, following the N.I.C.E. system can help you handle a difficult person without becoming one of them.

N—Neutralize Your Emotions

Dealing with difficult people can be an emotional challenge. The more emotional you are, the less rational you behave. Conversely, the more your emotions are in check, the more you can be in control of a positive outcome.

I—Identify the Type

There are three basic types of difficult people (and several permutations of each).

  • The Situationally Difficult – those people whose situation or circumstances make them difficult
  • The Strategically Difficult – those people who believe being unreasonable is effective
  • The Simply Difficult – those people with an ingrained personality characteristic

C—Control the Encounter

Once you know which type of difficult individual you face, you can employ the appropriate techniques to help shape and determine the outcome of the encounter. If you utilize the right techniques, you can change the fate of deals, meetings, and everyday confrontations.

E—Explore Options

Even after shaping the encounter, you may still be at an impasse. The process of getting “unstuck” often requires the development of options—alternative solutions—so both sides can give and get. (This includes the option of ending without escalating, reserved for those instances in which the best deal is no deal, which can preserve the possibility of a future deal.)

Looking for more influence and negotiaion tips for your project management career? Read more from negotiation expert Ron Shapiro on PDUs2Go.com’s Blog!

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