Why Understand Difficult People?
Why should you try to understand difficult people? Why not just heed recommendations on how to respond to difficult behavior?
The key to changing problematic behavior is understanding what factors drive it and then designing an intervention to affect these causal factors. Interventions that would lead to a positive change in a manager with one underlying personality type could lead to intensification of the behavior in someone with another type. For example, aggressive behavior may be driven by fear and insecurity, by cluelessness, or by a ruthless desire to dominate and control people. Managers whose aggression arises from fear and insecurity are likely to calm down if treated with tolerance and reassurance. Tolerance of aggression arising from ruthlessness, however, is likely to exacerbate the situation. Similarly, while a strong negative response to aggressive behavior may deter someone who is ruthless, it could increase the anxiety and tension of someone who is driven by fear and thereby worsen the problem.
The better you understand how other people view the world and what motivates them, the better you will be able to influence them to behave in ways that are helpful. The more you know about what motivates people with different styles, the better you will be able to defend yourself and encourage them to cooperate with you and provide the work products you need to do your own job.
Senior management and human resources need to understand why someone is doing poorly in order to know whether to try to help the individual or to let him or her go. You do not want to give too many chances to someone who rains chaos and problems on others. At the same time, you do not want to get rid of a potentially fine manager who is suffering from readily treatable anxiety, depression, stress, or abuse by a toxic manager. The more you understand about personality types, the impact of anxiety and depression, and the problematic behaviors that can be evoked by being placed in difficult situations (such as being scapegoated or bullied or placed in a job requiring the wrong set of skills), the better you will be able to determine whether to keep a manager who is currently having a problem or to have him or her find a new position.