The Spokesperson

The Spokesperson

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We have made it to the final difficult personality that I want to discuss in this post series. Next week we will summarize what we have gone over and look at some general advice for dealing with any type of difficult personality.

This week we are discussing “The Spokesperson”. These people see themselves as the self-appointed spokesperson of the people. They are the first to hear, and share, all the gossip on the floor. They are also quick to bring problems to your attention and demand that you do something even when the problem has nothing to do with them and does not impact them directly.

The frustrating thing about these people is their need to involve themselves where they should not be getting themselves involved, and often they do this in a very demanding and confrontational way. They lack tact and are pushy, expecting an immediate response to their concerns.

I have to admit that I allow myself to be very frustrated with these people as they always involve themselves in issues making it more complicated to deal with, also their demanding nature can bring frustration in light of its unreasonableness.

I have found that the best way to deal with this personality type is to make them part of the solution. As long as they are not creating further problems, or increasing a negative attitude on the team, then there is no reason to dig in your heels and find a reason to fight them. If they are a good team member in all other respects, then use them to the best advantage.

Now, if they are being disruptive and causing further problems you need to deal with them in as direct a manner as possible and not let them create dissension on the team. Remember always present facts, keep the discussion to what the expectations are, i.e. what the non-negotiable are, and keep them focused on what is in their control. Do not allow them to take you into the weeds.

If they are doing things for the right reasons, but just going about it in the wrong way, then use this as an opportunity to engage them and get them to help you solve what they see as a problem. This will benefit you and the team in two ways – first, it gains their trust and will take some of the aggression out of their stance; second, it will gain you an ally that will help you gauge the mood on the team and help you head off problems before they become major issues.

Often the “Spokesperson” is in tune with all the gossip and goings on with the floor and has influence with their fellow coworkers. Use this to your advantage. Find out what the real issues are and who is involved. Ask the “spokesperson” what their suggestions are for dealing with the situation. Ask if they would be willing to help you to resolve the situation.

Be careful here. You don’t want to involve them in any disciplinary action or share with them the specifics of how you will deal with any individual in this regard. But you can use them to get a message to the floor that you are aware of the situation, that you are concerned about it, and that you are taking steps to address the situation.

The real key is to direct the “spokespersons” well meaning, but misdirected actions, and turn them to the advantage of the team. If you blow them off they will take that to the floor and the message will be that you don’t care and don’t listen. It is better to listen to the person who is bringing the issue to you, thank them for doing so, realizing that it is better to engage them as an ally then to get upset with them and have it reflected negatively to the work group.

You also want to be careful that you set clear expectations with the spokesperson to ensure that they are not bringing every little problem to you expecting you to jump every time they think you should. Make sure they understand how to appropriately address problems, what problems are important enough to bring to your attention, and ensure that they are respectful of your time.

While the “Spokesperson” can be too direct and aggressive in how they deal when communicating issues within the team, don’t allow their misguided style to put you in a negative mood. Remember that it is better that they are bringing problems to your attention allowing you to get ahead of problems and address them heads on. Engage them to get them working to be part of the solution and use their influence with the work group to bring resolution to a problem.

Next week we will wrap up this series on dealing with difficult people and put together a quick tip list of actions you can take to deal with, and engage these people, in a positive manner.

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