No matter the industry, job, family or organization, it is almost a universal truth that there are difficult people to work with. My mentor, Jon Gordon, calls them ‘Energy Vampires’ and I’ve heard worse than that too! These are the people who seemingly have a dark cloud that follows them around and affects everyone around them. You see them coming and while you may have a polite…albeit short interaction…your nonverbal communication probably indicates you really didn’t want to be there. Remember, time sends a message too including lack of spending time.

So what do we do about these people? Will they ever fit in? If you’ve led a project, department, division, etc. you know getting people to work together is like putting a square peg into a round hole. Think about it- different cultures, genders, experience level, agendas, personalities all expected to work together in harmony.

I recently coached my 4-year-old son’s first soccer season, and it was an adventure! The goal was just to have fun and learn the fundamentals of the game. Still, there are moments where you try to get them to work in-sync together. At one point, I had one boy digging in the dirt, another running off for a snack, another starring blankly at the sky, and then two others running for the ball. Ever have an organization or situation feel like this? The best thing we could do is encourage the kids to participate, love on them, and give them opportunities with the ball. We literally placed the ball in front of one kid’s feet and said ‘Run!’- He made it about 5 feet before a hoard of children stole the ball. In the end, we all celebrated with our trophies and tried to provide the best experience.

While work and school situations don’t allow for participation medals, it does allow for creative thinking. Stop trying to jam that peg into the hole and perhaps look at it another way. Perhaps more one-on-one time with the difficult employee to gauge what’s really going on. Try to see what is causing the negativity and see if they can offer solutions. Give them a chance with encouragement and trying to show some grace and love before drastic actions are taken. Of course I am not a believer in endless chances but at least starting with a conversation and staying in contact with this person. It may drive them away or you may just win them over either way it is an opportunity to reach out to this person and attempt to cultivate their talent.

I did have some kids not return because they were just not into it, and a lot who surprised me that eventually got into the game. Maybe some of your difficult staff members have a surprise for you.