• Gina Folk

3 Challenging Personality Types, and How to Lead Them Successfully

We’ve all encountered them . . . challenging people. Whether in the workplace, at social events, or even in our own family, we have all interacted with people who are less than pleasant—people who we’d like to avoid at all costs. However, as a people leader, it is your responsibility to work with these team members to ensure they are personally productive—and to prevent them from demotivating and destroying your entire organization.

So what are some of the most common challenging personality types? Here are three:

  1. Attention Hounds. These are the people who command all the attention in any setting in which they find themselves. Regardless of what is going on or who else is involved, these individuals will always ensure that they are the ones who are being recognized and valued. All they want is for everyone to recognize how great and wonderful they are. In a work setting, attention hounds create friction because they make others feel unimportant and unneeded.

  2. Chicken Littles. You can spot this personality type by their anxious state. They are truly concerned that “the sky is falling” every time anything new is introduced into their world. These individuals resist change, and they convince their peers that they should resist change as well. In the workplace, a Chicken Little’s anxiety is contagious; it can create a fear state in an organization very quickly.

  3. Pass the Buckers. I like to think of these personality types as the politicians in the workplace. They are the masters of deflection—passing on everything that does not suit their needs. Nothing, and I mean nothing, hard or negative—tough decisions, critical actions, problems that need addressing—is ever their responsibility. They are very quick to claim the good, however, as they thrive on taking credit for a job well done. In the workplace, this personality type can destroy an entire organization because of its demotivating influence.

So how do you lead individuals with these personality types? There are 3 steps to consider when dealing with any of these types, regardless of how challenging they are:

  1. Be aware of and understand their world. As the leader, it is your responsibility to take notice of, not ignore, these individuals and their potential to damage your team. Almost all challenging personality types are simply a manifestation of an individual’s personal fears; by listening and asking questions, you can uncover what these fears are.

  2. Provide an alternative view of the world. As a leader, you must help the challenging personality types on your team to understand that there are different ways to operate in the workplace. Point out the impact of their actions on the rest of the team, and suggest alternate ways they might operate within the team.

  3. Engage in a positive “go forward” plan. You must let challenging personality types know that their way of being is not effective for the team—and then encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone and try new ways of interacting with others. Collaborate with these individuals to create a “go forward” plan that will help them interrupt and change their problematic behavioral patterns.

When it comes to challenging personality types, people like to think that if they ignore the problem it will go away—but that solution never works. The only true way to lead challenging personalities is to work with them and influence them to interact differently. When you take the time to do this, you and everyone on your team will be rewarded with more peace and productivity.

Reflection Question: What other challenging personality types have you encountered in the workplace? How did you lead them successfully? Share your answer in the comments section below.



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