Video: Talented Terrors


Dealing With Difficult People: Talented Terrors

There is no such thing as a high performer with a bad attitude. When we talk about dealing with difficult people, think of performance as having two major components: Skills and Attitude. Now here's somebody that has great skills and a great attitude, this is a high performer. If you have good skills and a good attitude, you're a middle performer. If you have lousy skills, lousy attitude, yeah, you're sort of a classic low performer. Now, those are not the world's worst people to deal with, simply because if you're incompetent, and a jerk about it, yeah it's usually pretty easy to remove you from the organization. But there are two other groups of folks that we talk about when dealing with difficult people that cause managers a little more difficulty.

One is the good attitude, lousy skills people. Those are the folks we call the "Bless Their Hearts." Bless Their Hearts, it's a Southern expression, so living in the southern United States, I can sort of get away with this. It's basically saying, "Well, bless your heart. That was so sweet. That was so nice. That was wrong. That was just terrible, but bless your heart. Thank you for trying." Now the Bless Their hearts are not the world's biggest problem either when dealing with difficult people. If you don't have the skills, but you honest-to-goodness come in every day and you're just trying your best, and it's just not working, well, most managers are willing to kind of coach you up. They're not the real problem.

The real problem when dealing with difficult people are the Talented Terrors. And the Talented Terrors are the people with great skills and lousy attitudes. Whenever you hear somebody say, "Oh, they're a high performer. They've just got kind of a prickly attitude," when talking about dealing with difficult people, that's not a high performer. That's a low performer. It's a Talented Terror.

One of the biggest problem organizations have is when they go through their annual reviews and their promotions and their bonuses, and all of this, and they give Talented Terrors five out of five on their performance ratings. And they give them the highest bonus because they've got the great skills, but their attitude is destructive. What is the bane of HR departments is when somebody does that and they give their Talented Terror five out of five in their performance review in January, and come February they call HR and say, "I've got fire this guy." "Okay. Great. Why?" "Well, because I’m tired of dealing with difficult people and they're just awful and they're terrible and everything else." "Well, okay. Understood. Let me pull up their personnel file and see what you wrote down. Oh, look at that. You gave them a five out of five for like ten years running and oh, guess what? They just had a birthday and turned 65. Wonderful. You've just handed them their wrongful termination suit." This is a problem.

Talented Terrors are low performers. If they're destroying your team, if they're destroying your culture, if they're a nightmare to manage, we have to acknowledge that attitude. As it manifests itself behaviorally it is a very real issue. We are dealing with difficult people. You can’t just walk around and say, "You know what? They are a high a high performer with a terrible attitude." High performers with terrible attitudes are low performers.

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