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Dealing With Difficult Co-Workers

wolf-argument-Tambako-the-Jaguar-flickrDo certain co-workers drive you nuts? Drive you up the wall? Maybe even out the door and down the street? Do you wish you could understand your boss, co-worker, or friend? How about your spouse? Your kid’s? Your kid’s teachers?

“For many people, one of the most frustrating aspects of life is not being able to understand other people’s behavior.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Usually, once we understand the reasons behind someone’s behavior our relationship improves. Assuming Goethe knew what he was talking about, everyone would love to understand other people’s behavior. The good news is, there’s a way to do just that.

But understanding isn’t always enough. We have to adapt to another’s behavior for a real breakthrough to occur and the easiest way is to learn to use DISC. Adaptation begins with knowledge, has willingness in the middle, and is topped off by patience.

Try Using DISC To Understand Others

In 1928, the four DISC behavioral styles were identified by Harvard psychologist William Moulton Marston in his book, “The Emotions of Normal People.” Everyone has each of those four behavioral factors in varying degrees:

  • D-Dominant (how we handle problems and challenges)
  • I-Influencing (how we influence others)
  • S-Steadiness (how we respond to the pace of our environment)
  • C-Cautious, Compliant (how we respond to rules set by others)
Target Training International has researched and developed the DISC behavioral styles so that there are 384 different combinations, each with a distinct way of behaving in different environments under different conditions. TTI has furthered developed Marston’s research into eight styles with 12 varying behaviors but for this article, I’ll only deal with the original four.

Identifying Each Person’s “Core” Style

A core style is a person’s highest scoring factor and it will generally dominate a person’s behavioral tendencies. Granted some people have two very high core styles and some even have three that are relatively high and they all interact with each other (thus the 384 different combinations). But generally, people have one style that  takes center stage, especially in stressful times. That’s their core style.

Office ConflictPeople who have the core D and I styles are generally more extroverted; those with the core S and C styles are generally more introverted. High I’s and S’s are people-oriented while D’s and C’s are task oriented. Remember that everyone has at least a little of each style. Introverts have some tendencies where they’ll act more extroverted and extroverts have some introverted tendencies. Usually it depends on the situation and people can and do adapt. Unlike with many other assessments, there are no dichotomies.

After you believe you may know someone’s core style, you’re better prepared to communicate and relate to them, to build stronger rapport, and have an overall more positive relationship.

So, for the sake of simplicity, identify a person’s core style this way:

  1. Extroverted and task-oriented: Core D
  2. Extroverted and people-oriented: Core I
  3. Introverted and people-oriented: Core S
  4. Introverted and task-oriented: Core C
Can people have a High D and a High S? You bet. Are they introverted or extroverted? In those cases, it can go either way but that person will feel inner conflict. I’m a High D and a High C so I know what that’s like. 

Learn How to Communicate with Each Style

Core D: These are confident people who value efficiency and results, preferably quick results. They can be loud, boisterous, and opinionated. They’re very businesslike in most settings, but especially those of a professional nature. DO be clear, specific, brief and to the point. Stick to business, be efficient, be confident. DON’T waste their time, be wishy-washy, disorganized, or socialize too much. Never ramble. Many CEO’s and people in leadership positions are Core D’s.

Core I: They are people, people, people! They smile, talk, laugh, and put people at ease. They want to socialize and can be too trusting of people or ideas. DO be friendly and outgoing, let them talk about their experiences, smile more often and laugh with them, especially if they tell a joke. They have an inherent need to interact with others. DON’T be pretentious or patronizing, be too businesslike, cold, unfriendly or impersonal, and don’t take credit for their ideas. Many salespeople are Core I’s.

Core S: They want to slow the world down. They’re fantastic organizers and perform very well in support roles, Talk more softly and tone down your body language with them. DO be slow, patient, sincere, logical, soft-spoken, and non-threatening. Use “please” and “thank you” a lot more. DON’T be loud, abrupt or quick. Don’t threaten or pressure them, force quick decisions, touch or move things on their desk or in their office. Many support staff are Core S’s.

Core C: They need a lot of data, facts, and more time to make any decision. They will challenge almost everything (including this article), demanding evidence, links, research papers … but it still may not be enough to convince them. They’re very diplomatic, highly accurate, and want things done right. DO be straightforward, accurate, realistic, present specifics, be organized and follow through, give them space, keep your distance. DON’T be disorganized, messy, casual, informal, abrupt, chatty, or try to convince them with feelings and opinions. Don’t touch them except with a handshake. Many accountants and attorneys are Core C’s.

There’s a lot more to understanding how to communicate and relate with each style, but using these guidelines will help improve your communication with others.

Know Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses

Our goal is to focus on our strengths and strive to improve our weaknesses. Sometimes, a weakness or limitation is a strength that’s taken to an extreme.

It’s not what style you are:
it’s what you do with what you are. ~ Bill Bonnstetter, CEO of Target Training International

Core D strengths: Makes quick decisions (even in an ambiguous environment), very efficient, gets things accomplished, and wants to be out front and in control.

Core D weaknesses: Can be overbearing, loud, intimidating, impatient, abrasive, makes decisions without thinking through all the consequences, quick to place blame. May break rules if the end justifies the means.

Core I strengths: Good conversationalist, persuasive, friendly, optimistic, trusting, good at giving presentations and mediating conflicts between the styles, life of the party.

Core I weaknesses: Can over-control the conversation, forgetful, disorganized, a poor listener, rambles on and on, can be unrealistic, likes being the center of attention, talks without thinking, too trusting. May break rules simply because they were unaware of them.

Core S strengths: Quiet, helpful, team player, methodical, friendly, good worker, and patient to a fault. Excels in support roles and loves working behind the scenes.

Core S weaknesses: Avoids conflict, may clam up, can be slow, wants to work on only one thing at a time, may become passive-aggressive, resists change, slow to make decisions. May take criticism personally and may wait (patiently) for any direction or orders before taking action. May internalize feelings.

Core C strengths: Neat, analytical, logical, organized, works from templates, detail-oriented, precise, accurate, finds mistakes others may have missed, follows rules, very diplomatic, high standards.

Core C weaknesses: Too low-risk, requires too much data to make decisions, fearful, evasive, pessimistic, a perfectionist, will point out mistakes of others (even if they’re minor mistakes like spelling), experiences internal conflict making a decision without rules or precedent. May be defensive when criticized yet be too hard on themselves.

Being aware of your limitations is the first step. Pick one area right now that’s holding you back and begin improving this negative behavior.

Don’t Take It Personally

“People don’t get up in the morning thinking about how they can make it a bad day for you.” ~ Judy Suiter

We tend to find certain people more difficult to deal with and generally, it’s because they have a Core Style that’s at odds with our own. It doesn’t necessarily make them difficult, it’s just that we have a difficult time relating to them.

If you’re a full-steam-ahead, let’s get things done NOW type of person, you’re going to be unhappy with someone who wants to think things over for a couple of days. If you’re extremely precise and accurate, you’re not going to gel with someone who is disorganized. If you think out loud, and you’re dealing with someone who’s uncomfortable showing their emotions it will cause difficulty. Work to NOT ascribe intent to the impact another’s actions may have on you or your emotions. That’s tough to do.

Tell people how their behavior makes you uncomfortable. “Phil, I know you want to make a quick decision on this project but I’m uncomfortable doing that considering the new parameters the customer emailed to us this morning. Can we go over them a second time to insure we aren’t missing anything?”

“Jill, I know you don’t want to make a mistake on this but we’ve gone over the specs for two days with four different engineers. I’m uncomfortable delaying a decision any longer. What do you think?”

Adapt to Other’s Behavioral Styles

The way to improve communications with others is to do three things:

  1. Understand your own behavioral style
  2. Understand the styles of people who are different from you
  3. Adapt your style to theirs

Treat others the way they want to be treated and your relationship will flourish. People will naturally warm up to you and treat YOU better just as a by-product. True excellence begins when both people adapt their communication styles to each other.

Can you imagine how much better teams would interact if everyone understood these principles?

Don’t Criticize Another’s Style

Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves.. ~ Stephen Kendrick

If you know someone is aggressive, how selfish is it to want them to change because you don’t like it? If you know someone is friendly and outgoing, how egotistical is it to expect them to tone it down when they’re around you? If you know someone is naturally a slower paced person, how inconsiderate is it to tell them to hurry up just to satisfy your desires? If you know someone is precise and attentive to detail, how conceited is it to tell them to stop and “see the big picture?”

It’s a symptom of our own selfishness when we get irritated or angry with anyone for being who they naturally are, even if their behavior isn’t the best at the time. Too often we assign intent where there was none based solely on the impact another person’s behavior has on us.

We think we can read minds … and we can’t. However, we CAN read behavior and adapt our own to secure a better communication.


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Want to learn more? First check out our website and then contact us ( and tell us how we can help you and your company bring out the best in your most important asset – your people.

Certified as a Professional Behavioral, Motivators, and Emotional Intelligence Analyst, Ron Haynes specializes in using the science of TTI’s TriMetrix HD to help companies select and develop their top talent, create job benchmark solutions, and implement succession planning.

He has recently developed an auditing process to help organizations more accurately calculate true cost of employee turnover. It’s staggeringly higher than you think.

Need a solution to your employee challenges? Contact him at or at 870-761-7881.

What Makes Your Company Different?

Several years ago a book entitled Blue Ocean Strategy hit the bookstores and became an international bestseller. The authors (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne) postulated that a strategy of creating or discovering uncontested market space — “blue oceans” ripe for growth — was the only sound and sustainable way for business leaders to enjoy long term success. Probably 95% or more of all companies however, currently compete in “red oceans,” red because shark-like competitors create bloodbaths of slashed prices as every firm competes head-to-head for customers and market share.

In many ways the book was on target. Citing examples such as Cirque du Soleil, eBay, and the Home Depot, and even Chrysler’s minivan, the authors point out how each company altered the landscape of its industry and created an ocean of profits at the time by uncovering hidden, even unknown markets and needs.

Although the book addressed a few organizational hurdles, it largely ignored the most important aspect of any organization: its people.

The right people implement your strategies. They use the right tactics to make the most of every business situation. The right people communicate up and down the organization in ways that foster business success. The right people value each customer interaction. The right people rarely leave because they’re valued and fit within your organization. The right people keep your organizational goals in mind when making decisions. The right people are innovative, creative, and move your company forward.

The RIGHT people are what makes the difference in every company. How many airlines are there? How many software companies? How many building materials stores? How many consultants? How many transportation companies? How many hotels? How many banks? How many IT firms? How many restaurants? Each are operating in red oceans but despite the competition, some companies are thriving. I’d say it isn’t because of what they have going for them but who.

“People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” ~ Jim Collins

Global_TeamPeople, YOUR people, the right people, will make the biggest difference to your company’s success.

But we have super awesome products!” The products you offer or buy from your wholesaler can be bought and resold by someone else … probably for less.

We’re different because we have an exclusive agreement,” you say. You may have an exclusive agreement but if you’re making good profit, a competitor WILL arrive on the scene and probably at the most inopportune time for you. And their product will most likely have a feature yours doesn’t.

‘We’re the only ones operating in our geographic area.” If you’re making money, the only thing I can say is, “For now … ”

We have a unique set of patents.” Your patents will last only so long until they’re imitated, altered just enough to allow someone to compete with you.

But WE are the kings and queens of ‘service!'” Your service offerings can be duplicated almost instantly, especially if a competitor has the right people in THEIR organization.

“But we have a technological edge.” Oh good, you may be able to last a little longer in your blue ocean but remember that blue oceans are temporary. Any advantage will be copied or otherwise circumvented sooner or later.

Carlos Brito, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, agreed when he spoke to students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business saying, “Competitors can copy your products, but they can’t copy your hiring and retaining of your talent.

The RIGHT people are your biggest competitive advantage.

So the questions become: “What are you doing to attract, train, develop, and retain the RIGHT people? How do you get the best people, the RIGHT people on board?”

  • Are you creating a culture of open communication? How do you measure it? The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it’s actually taken place.
  • Are you creating a culture of accountability and responsibility? How do you measure that?
  • Are you empowering your employees to take calculated risks? Are you sure?How do you know? What’s their failure rate?
  • Are you up to speed with each employee’s behavioral tendencies and motivations? Have you profiled them behaviorally to insure they “fit” their role in your company or are you still trusting your gut?
  • How about your employees business acumen and emotional intelligence? Can you put your hands on that report? Do you even have one?
  • Do you know where each employee stands on the Core-Skills List and do you have a development plan for improvement?Have you communicated that plan to supervisors and your employees? Are they on target?
  • What steps would you take if you hear that one of your superstars is looking for other employment or is dissatisfied? Do you know that employee’s top three motivators? Can you adjust? Are you sure?

What makes your company different are the people working there. What makes your company different is its culture and way of approaching customers. What makes your company different begins at the top and if a company is to change, its leaders have to change.

What makes your company different is you and the people you choose to work with you.


Original article by Ron Haynes.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Are You Really Listening?

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. –Larry King

Regardless of your long term or short term goals, working to improve your listening skills will help you reach them. Your job probably requires it, you spouse begs for it, your children crave it, and your friends love you because of it. Listening is an art that is in short supply. If you’ve ever been interrupted, you know what I’m talking about.
I’ve arranged L-I-S-T-E-N into an acrostic to help you remember. You can apply these in a variety of situations whether it’s listening to your children, listening in a business meeting, listening in a classroom, listening to your family members at the dinner table, listening to someone who’s networking, or listening to a sermon in church. I believe that if you can develop a passion for listening to others, they will see you as wise, caring, and understanding. You’ll make a stronger connection and improve your communication with them. Having someone truly listen is, I believe, a deep-seated need we all crave. Meeting this need in others will catapult your standing in the eyes of others.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. –Ernest Hemingway

Lay the groundwork

Intentionally create an environment that makes it easy to focus on what someone else is saying. Remove distractions (current and potential) by:

  • Turning off your cell phone, the television, or other electronic distractions.
  • Closing your office door.
  • Moving to a quiet area, away from customers or machinery, if you’re on a busy shop floor.
  • Taking a walk outside with the person.
  • Moving closer so you can adequately hear them (just don’t invade their personal space).

The whole idea is to minimize the possibility of interruption.

Commit to yourself ahead of time to yourself to listen to the entire message without responding. Stephen Covey is known for saying, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” By establishing this committment in your mind ahead of time, you’re on your way to understanding.

If your mind is preoccupied with something else, quickly decide if it can be tabled until later. If that’s just not possible, explain that you want to be able to give your undivided attention and ask if you can postpone conversation until you can truly focus on listening. Few things are as rude as semi-ignoring/semi-listening so by deferring the conversation until you can devote your full attention to it, you’re building a better relationship. While you’re listening, make sure you face the speaker, smile, maintain eye contact, and adopt a relaxed body posture.

No man ever listened himself out of a job. –Calvin Coolidge


If you can find out what the conversation is about up front, you’ll be in a much better position to respond properly, so before you get into details, ask what it’s all about. All you need to know is the subject matter. Employment issue? Legal matter? Safety concerns? Insurance issue? Billy’s grades? Susie’s curfew? No one really likes surprises. Sometimes you can just ask, “Good news or bad news?” If a top performing employee asks to speak with you, and after some small talk, drops the bombshell that she is considering another job offer, finding out up front that the conversation will be about an employment issue will help keep you from reacting in shock and surprise. The alternative is that you may find your mind racing with quick responsive thoughts, such as “What are we going to do now?” “Who can I get to replace her?” and “Should I make her a counter offer?” Forewarned is always forearmed, so don’t hesitate to ask for a preview.

How is asking for a preview a component of listening? It allows your mind to concentrate on what the speaker is actually saying rather than be shocked and go off in a dozen tangents.

Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble. –Frank Tyger


While not always possible, take notes whenever you can. The simple act of jotting down a few notes can help you remember important issues and keep you from forgetting something that you promised to do. It also helps you stay focused on the speaker and on the message at hand. If you’re speaking with someone on the phone, be sure to explain that your pauses in the conversation stem from you writing a few notes. This has the added benefit of covering yourself later if something goes wrong. “That isn’t what I have in my notes …” could save you a lot of grief later.

Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly. –Plutarch

Think about the message

Body language is an important part of communication, but don’t neglect other aspects, such as eye contact by the speaker, the rate, tone and volume of what they say, or the emphasis they put on certain words. These features are part of “para-verbal communication.” The prefix para- means alongside of or related to, so para-verbal communication goes along with, or alongside of, the words the speaker uses. It can tell you whether the speaker is angry, sad, agitated, excited, positive, negative and more. Determining what the para-verbal signals are telling you in a specific situation can give you a great deal of insight, although in no case should you completely disregard the explicit verbal message.

Should the person talking to you begin to ask questions of you, you can easily turn it around and query, “That’s a good question … why do you ask?” Make sure you don’t use this one too often or you may be thought evasive but remember that when you’re talking, you aren’t learning. Remember, we want to hear the whole message from the speaker and we may have to draw it out with questions.

It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen. –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Express it in your own words

So the listener knows that you heard him or her and to insure that what was said was what you understood, repeat the message back to the speaker in your own words. You can do this at various points in the conversation to encourage the speaker to continue.

  • “Explain what you mean by ‘missing money.’ Are you saying that you suspect this employee of embezzlement?”
  • “You’re asking for a temporary extension of curfew because the movie last 3 hours?”
  • “You’d like me to assess this job candidate’s suitability for our open position?”
  • “You’re saying we can make extra money for the company by discontinuing this product line?
  • “That’s an interesting viewpoint/question/idea … can you tell me more?

Sometimes you don’t actually hear what you think you’ve heard. Repeating it back to the speaker will prevent miscommunication.

Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen. –Margaret J. Wheatley

No talking — at least for a few seconds

After the speaker has finished, take a moment to consider what he or she has said before you respond. Let them know what you’re doing by saying, “I’d like to think about that for a moment.” By doing this you communicate that you value the speaker and what she or he has to say.

You can’t fake listening. It shows. –Raquel Welch

Listening is your part in communication. Make sure you consciously listen and focus on what the speaker is saying to you. Clear your mind, watch for para-verbal signals, watch for non-verbal signals, take notes if possible, pause before responding, repeat back what you think you’ve heard, and ask many, many questions.





Original article by Ron Haynes.

Image courtesy of Ambro/ Used with permission.