5 golden rules for working openly with difficult people

How to build a productive relationship with the complicated people in your life.
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An organization is a melting pot of personalities.

Sometimes these personalities can rub each other the wrong way, generate conflict, and be difficult to work with. Some of these people can be unclear in their expectations, overreact to relatively benign scenarios, and be unreliable. They can be your founders, executives, team-mates, other team members, or people who report to you. In many cases, people handle these challenging personalities in a sub-optimal way. They get distracted by the ego and emotion in the situation as opposed to focusing on clear, productive outcomes and building lasting trust.

This episode of my open organization video series provides some pragmatic methods for handling these people and situations, and some of my golden rules for how to manage these scenarios effectively.

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Jono Bacon is a leading community manager, speaker, author, and podcaster. He is the founder of Jono Bacon Consulting which provides community strategy/execution, developer workflow, and other services. He also previously served as director of community at GitHub, Canonical, XPRIZE, OpenAdvantage, and consulted and advised a range of organizations.


Any chance for a transcript? I really abhor watching videos for anything other than entertainment, reading is so much faster ;-)

This is really one of the best practical posts I've read in months!
Thanks for sharing the thoughts Jono!

I think it's all quite useful, but worry a bit about identifying some individuals as The Big Problem, when really there is a gradient of personalities. For the organization, the opposites of these difficult people may be a problem too. I'm talking about the ones who are always so agreeable, so nice, so flexible that they don't seem to have an opinion about anything other than to agree with someone else.
Something else worth mentioning is that there should be some kind of assessment of the role or contribution of someone to the organization. Why is bad behavior being tolerated? What positive impact does this person otherwise have on the organization? What are the dynamics of the organization that might have contributed to this kind of person being hired in the first place?

Great presentation Jono. Working with difficult people is both hard and fatiguing. Therefore, I first want to know what I want to know the value of that relationship and what I want to achieve. If there is not much value there, for me it might be best to ask out of the relationship. Assuming there is great value for me, I would ask that difficult person what he wants to achieve. Armed with that response, I would make a note of it and present it back to him at the start of every contact (including emails, messaging). I almost exclusively work with people in different countries and cultures, and there are these difficult people worldwide. My experience is that very few people want to work with these kinds of people. Therefore, if we can find a way to work with them, it can be extremely valuable to us. Your comments are very helpful.

Agree with Jos Poortvliet that a transcript would be awfully nice. Ten years ago, I could hear such a video, but not now. I regret there are more hearing impaired readers than I ever expected, back before I became one.

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