Managing Very Difficult Workplace Behaviour

Managers and organisations have a shared responsibility to manage the very difficult behaviour that is sometimes encountered in the workplace – yet our usual approaches and systems do not seem to work so well on some occasions and with some staff.

This program delivered in partnership with the Centre for Leadership Management and facilitated by Greg Cook provides you with frameworks for understanding, defining and managing difficult behaviour including a range of approaches and techniques for dealing with specific problematic behaviours.

Managers and staff are increasingly required to deal directly with very difficult behaviour encountered in the workplace.

Public sector organisations, including Universities, have dramatically improved their capacity for internal communication and coaching, performance-management, participative planning, team building and organisational engagement, yet these approaches do not deal with all staffing issues. Yet, these more direct adult-to-adult approaches sometimes seem to make things worse. Some people – staff, colleagues, managers and clients have very difficult, ongoing patterns of behaviour. They may be reasonable, competent and responsible at times and on some issues and sometimes get along with people – but have a history of difficulty in other areas and of consistently making other people very unhappy!

Very difficult people often have a reputation and a history of interpersonal difficulty, yet are unresponsive to feedback, often blaming others. Staff with these behaviours take up a disproportionate amount of effort from others and also seem pretty unhappy themselves. Increasingly we recognise that we have a responsibility to support the other staff who must deal with this difficult behaviour day-to-day; to change how the organisation supports these staff – and to directly manage the difficult behaviour.

This workshop provides frameworks for understanding, defining and managing difficult behaviour, including a range of approaches and techniques for dealing with specific behaviours in the workplace.


  • Identify the impact and common characteristics of very difficult workplace behaviour
  • Describe and prepare strategies for managing different types of behaviour
  • Discuss the common internal and personal challenges that difficult behaviour creates for the manager, management team, other staff
  • Identify and develop team, organisational and HR processes and methods for supporting managers and the organisation as a whole
Workshop One
  • Workshop overview and introductions, including participant key questions / issues
  • Review of pre-workshop materials, participant questions and discussion
  • Impact and costs of difficult behaviour
  • ‘Emotional Internalisation’
  • Case studies of participant’s ‘live’ workplace issues – in breakout rooms
  • Tactical engagement and other management and leadership strategies
  • Managing Very Difficult Workplace Behaviour checklists, methods and tools
  • Review and application exercise
  • Whole workshop group review
Workshop two
  • Participant application and shared feedback
  • Self-awareness and management – ‘on a bad day’
  • Assessment and management of specific behaviours – Range and variability – ‘Dramatic’, anxious and fearful’ and
  • Odd / eccentric’ behaviours
  • Review and application exercise
  • Building personal and organisational support
  • Workshop evaluation and feedback

Workshop Method and Rationale

The format and design of this workshop focuses on adult ‘action learning’. It is an investigative approach, similar to ‘the flipped classroom’ currently being used in many academic programs. It is intended to enable and support participant’s own meaning-making and exploration of their own issues in the management of very difficult workplace behaviour.

The intent of this methodology is to support the participant’s personal learning and increase the use and applicability of the workshops.

Greg Cook - Director - Centre for Leadership Management

Greg is one of the founders of CLM, and he is a psychologist with more than twenty years’ experience in organisational consulting, leadership development, facilitation and coaching. Greg also holds qualifications as a teacher and social worker. Greg provides process consultancy and coaching to executives, senior managers and teams in public sector organisations, not-for-profit organisations and community groups.