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Why Dealing With Difficult Team Members Will Lead to Happier Clients

Ron Kaufman January 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Too often, skin care facilities promise satisfaction to external clients and then allow internal politics to frustrate their employees’ good intentions to deliver. It’s important to remember that your clients aren’t the only ones who come through your business’s door every day seeking quality service. Your co-workers also need to be served. If they’re not happy, it’s not likely they’ll deliver stellar service ... and the same goes for you. Inevitably, difficult people will creep into your work lives, negatively affecting the service you all provide your clients.

At some point, every person is viewed by colleagues as the difficult person. That’s why it’s important that a way is determined to provide uplifting service internally all the time … even when difficult situations arise so internal tiffs don’t lead to rifts with clients.

Once you’ve characterized someone as a difficult person, you’re already in a lose-lose situation. It’s like difficult clients: There are no difficult clients, there are only difficult client situations. Similarly, there are no difficult co-workers. There are only difficult co-worker situations. And once you start to think differently about how to manage those difficult situations, everyone can be more satisfied and better served—most importantly, your clients.

When the entire organization agrees to use this definition of service, everyone will be able to focus on creating value and serving each other better, which leads to better external service. Instead of seeing an angry co-worker and not wanting to have anything to do with her, you should naturally stop and ask yourself: What does this person value? What is she not getting that she needs? What can I do now to serve her better? When this culture of service takes hold in the spa, everyone feels better and works better together.

Assess the situation carefully. Is your colleague deeply upset or simply having a bad day? Is this a process problem that persistently provokes, or a one-time irritation that will naturally fade away? Then determine whether the person just requires a little personal attention from you—or whether a larger plan must be created.

Shift your perspective. Stop thinking of your colleague as “difficult” and start thinking about the difficulty she is experiencing, and how you can serve her in the current situation. Once you realize what a difficult situation means to another person, you can approach the issue with more compassion, generosity, empathy and patience. This is far more effective for both parties than concluding that another person is difficult all the time or is always overreacting.

Work on the problem together. A “difficult” person often behaves that way because she is trying to get something she needs, or is trying to make something happen. She probably thinks the only way she can get her colleagues’ attention is by outwardly showing her anger. But the way to get better service is to be a better customer ... and the same goes for getting help desired from colleagues.

Plan how you’ll work together. One way to defuse a difficult situation is to pull out a piece of paper and decide what actions each of you will take next. This helps remove emotional tension and gets everyone down to work.

Role model the right behavior. One of the best ways to make this behavior a part of your company culture is to role model it yourself. This can be done from any position in the organization: the top, middle or frontline. Eventually, your colleagues will see how you handle these situations and how well your approach leads to positive action.

Think about it like this: The “difficult” co-workers are simply people seeking service. Being able to recognize and reconcile those situations internally is just as important as being able to recognize when a client interaction has gone south. With surprising service coming from the inside, it’s easier to step up your service on the outside. And when that happens, everyone at the skin care facility wins.

Ron Kaufman is the author of Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet. He is a columnist at Bloomberg Businessweek and the author of 14 other books on service, business and inspiration.