Have you ever felt that one team member or colleague is obstructing your ability to get big picture goals done? I think most managers have experienced the frustration of a great team, with one personality who stands out and gets in the way of teamwork! Every group we deal with seems to have one personality that can only be described as “challenging”.
This obviously applies to family dynamics, as well as in classroom learning and day to day interactions. Possibly the most challenging environment is when we have to deal with these behaviors in the workplace; giving a presentation or briefing, imparting crucial information which needs to be understood by the entire team.
Understanding people’s style and their motivation for behaving the way they do can assist us with helping to merge them back into a cohesive team effort. The communication style of these challenging people varies, and we find that even understanding a basic difference in naturally introverted or extroverted people styles can assist in understanding and including even those who seem the most different to ourselves. You don’t have to attend a detailed training program to start becoming more aware of what motivates your team.
Here is a brief list of some challenging personality types who can be disruptive at work:
The Chatterbox – The title says it all. This type of person struggles to stay quiet for long periods and will often engage in a conversation with the person next to them, while you are in the middle of your presentation. This is a naturally extroverted person, with a need to be listened to, i.e. an auditory learning personality. They may be talking about the very subject we are introducing, but it’s hard to tell because they seem to be undermining and distracting from our own message.
The Alpha – This type loves a good power struggle. They will look for any opportunity to question your authority and overwhelm your message with their own views. This is a person who needs to feel respected and significant, in order to feel comfortable and open to other ideas. Another type of extrovert, they often have great suggestions, but not the self-awareness to put those out there in a supportive way.
The Brooder – Although not a very loud type, a brooder can still be a distraction for you and others in the group. Their style can come across as passive-aggressive, and undermining to the group effort. This is a person who likes to take time and think things through before voicing an opinion, a naturally introverted, maybe slower thinking individual who may have something worthwhile to say eventually!
The Clinger – Basically wants your attention and will aim to get it through a myriad of questions and calls for assistance. Another more introverted type; someone who gets their significance by quietly interrupting, who needs to be recognized for their engagement before being able to feel secure and contribute meaningfully. A perfectionist who can be a wonderful support person, if their need for detail and support is met.
These are gross generalizations, which give only a few of the basic challenging types you may encounter. All people are unique and need to be handled in individual ways. It’s easy to judge people as being an obstruction when they don’t think and contribute in the same way we do. However, once we can recognize and appreciate different communication styles, we can help our team members and colleagues to contribute in a positive way to support the bigger goals from their perspective. Below are 5 universal tips for including and making the most of all challenging types. There are also some great resources out there that we’ll list at the bottom of this blog:
1. Understand our own style – When we have an awareness of our own natural style, it’s easier to appreciate others. Take some time to learn whether you are instinctively more extroverted or introverted, how you can maximize your natural abilities, and learn to adapt and change your behavior to help others to relate to you more comfortably.
2. Include, don’t exclude – The temptation for dealing with these types is to shut them down, but often the opposite will be more effective. For instance, if someone is a more extroverted type who is being disruptive in one way or another when you need to demonstrate something to the rest of the group, pick your disrupter to come up in front of your group to help you demonstrate. Alternatively, if you are asking for an opinion of your group, go to the disrupted first, e.g. “John, you seem to have an opinion on this, so what do you think?”. This will play to their desire for validation, include them and put you in control of the situation.
3. Pause and give them space – Silence can often be your best friend. For instance, if someone is being disruptive by distracting the focus, asking a myriad of questions or appearing to be grumpy or unwilling to contribute meaningfully, during your presentation, stop talking, give them time to finish, then smile and thank them. Understanding their need for significance and appreciating their good intentions will go a long way towards getting them on track and back into their function within the team effort.
4. Use your other team members – A good tactic for your alpha or argumentative types. Instead of getting frustrated and feeling that you have to manage the disruption and address them yourself, simply include the rest of the group. i.e. “Interesting point Joan, what does everyone else think?”.
5. Divide and conquer – If things seem to be getting out of control, you may need to have a one-on-one conversation with the person in question at the first opportunity. Prepare for the conversation by reflecting on their communication style, and be willing to appreciate and ‘mirror’ their style to help them feel comfortable. Practicing this critical conversation beforehand can help you be fully prepared for any objections you may encounter and pave the way for effective teamwork and a happier workplace for everyone. Be prepared to ask them why they are behaving the way they are, and what they want to achieve in terms of the big picture. Listen to them and let them have their say, keep asking ‘what else?’ until they are done, before pointing out how their behavior is affecting the rest of the group. Most importantly, by appreciating their intentions, and acknowledging what they do well, you can enlist them to help make your workplace more productive and happier for everyone.
Get help – If you are struggling as a teacher, presenter or manager with challenging personalities, contact a coach at Peers and Players to find out how we can support you and improve your ability to recognize and work with different personality types.
Finally, here are some links to other helpful articles and resources:
At Peers and Players, we offer staff and management training in your location. Contact us for a free consultation. www.peersandplayers.com