She Performs Well But She’s A Pain To Deal With

Regrettably people who get things done do not always come equipped with the most pleasing personalities.

A CEO of a major corporation suggested that we address the issue in this series on behaviour modification.

What can we do with the high performer who has no intention of competing for the “most popular award?”

In this series we have been at pains to avoid focusing on fixing others and instead to work on how we can make adjustments to facilitate better inter-personal relations.

We will use a powerful questioning technique to address the issue.


What is it about High Performer (HP) that upsets you? List out each characteristic. Take the process a step further by recalling incidents in which the upsetting action was displayed. Noting frequency and intensity will help to establish the magnitude and gravity of the problem.


Go through characteristic by characteristic and dig deep to find out why you find them upsetting.

Are you seeking to impose your will? Are you unnecessarily sensitive and nit picking? Is a given characteristic limited to HP or seen in others? If seen in others, how do you respond to them?


When does HP display the upsetting behaviours? Can you identify triggers that set them off? If so, what can you do to control the trigger events?

Review the operating environment and culture to see if it encourages HP’s upsetting behaviour.


As objectively as you can muster, reflect on whether there is something about your actions that inspires HP’s reaction.

Does HP display the same unacceptable behaviour across the board? If not, who is able to command his respect and elicit appropriate actions? What can be learned from that individual?

Consider the case of John of Operations. He is blunt, intolerant, aggressive and pushy. His colleagues find him to be abrasive and difficult to get along with.

Stepping back from the situation, you might recognize that the environment in which John works is a high pressure, unforgiving one. There is a graphic history of people who held the job before him and bit the dust. John is not about to join that group. He sees every waking moment as a struggle for personal survival. He strives to be as unforgiving and unrelenting as he perceives his job to be. He is just mirroring his environment.

One way forward with John is to rethink the culture of the organization and how team leaders like John perceive their roles and responsibilities. To the extent that latitude and understanding is a feature of the operating environment, to that extent John might consider being less intolerant, aggressive and abrasive.

We could also consider Ann, the Internal Auditor. She has a reputation of getting on everybody’s last nerve. She communicates with a tone and body language of a police officer interrogating the prime suspect. She is adept of reading upside down and eavesdropping is practiced.

Wow! This is a tough one. However, with the right mind set and appropriate techniques, improved inter-personal relations is a distinct possibility.

Have a heart-to-heart talk with Ann. Explain that you want to be a part of the solution and not the problem. Find out from her what information she requires from you to get her job done, the format she needs it in and the schedule for its presentation. Establish definitively that your compliance will make it unnecessary for her to seek to get information from or about you through means that are the subject of much concern among your colleagues.

Repeat or escalate the process as needed.