Middle managers 'grumpy, self-important and difficult'

Sep 06 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The ranks of middle management are populated by a disproportionate number of difficult, self-important middle-aged men who lack communication skills are not team players.

A survey of more than 250 senior professionals by UK training company PTP Training & Marketing has found that the overwhelming majority Ė some 98 per cent - have to deal with difficult work colleagues on a regular basis.

Men aged between 35 and 45 working at a mid management or admin levels are most likely to be viewed by colleagues as "difficult", the survey suggested.

Half of those quizzed said they encounter difficult people on a daily basis with almost one in 10 claiming this was an hourly occurrence

But despite Ė or because of - the scale of the problem, only 15 per cent of managers admit to confronting the member of staff who is being difficult.

More than a third (36 per cent) of the sample believe the 35-45 age group are the worst culprits, while one in three (29 per cent) say the 45-55 year olds are the most difficult. A quarter pointed the finger at the 25-35 age group.

The under-25s and over 55s largely escaped the 'difficult' description.

But it would be unfair to suggest that men are overwhelmingly more difficult than women. Some 55 per cent of respondents said they felt men are more likely to be difficult compared to 45 per cent who pointed the finger at women.

What is clearer is that those working at mid management and mid admin levels are the most likely to present difficult behaviour compared to those working in a senior capacity.

A quarter of respondents consider the most difficult people are to be found at mid management level compared to just 16 per cent at senior level.

Similarly, almost one in five thought mid level administrators the most difficult compared with just over one in 10 senior level administrators.

Junior managers also scored highly in the "difficult" ranks earning 21 per cent of the vote while junior admin workers and non office and blue collar workers were seen as the least difficult people in a working environment.

While only 15 per cent of senior professionals confront the difficult people they meet, well over half the sample (55 per cent) claim they would try to help the difficult person by discussing any problems.

However, at the other end of the scale 30 per cent do nothing constructive and say they resort to "putting up with or ignoring" the difficult people in the office.

When asked why they think people are difficult at work the three most popular explanations are that "they are not team players", "they are insecure and lack confidence in their own abilities" and "they are stressed and under a lot of pressure".

Other responses include "dissatisfaction with work and status and feeling under-valued", "no people or communication skills" and "too much self importance".

PTP managing director Marc Holland said that senior managers need to possess the people skills to deal effectively with difficult people who can be a considerable barrier to office harmony, motivation and performance.

"It is important to be able to identify difficult personality types and be able to respond to them in a constructive way. A well-trained manager should be able to spot which personality types are likely to clash and can use their skills to diffuse situations, which could get out of hand and cause bad feeling and problems among staff," he said.

"Good people skills are a vital management tool and can clearly help managers deal with specific issues associated with difficult people such as anger, upset and unresponsiveness."


Older Comments

I was interested in the line, 'to spot which personality types are likely to clash and can use their skills to diffuse situations.' What techniques or skills can be used in this situation? What are the techniques that help you deal with these difficult people?

dauld Canada

Oh dear. I think this is about me!

David London


If you would like to have some help dealing with difficult people, contact me through my website, skype or email and I will help. Email me your phone number and I will call since my calls are not charged.

I have 34 years managing people and learned how to deal effectively (fix) all difficulties.

Best regards, Ben Simonton Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed' http://www.bensimonton.com

Ben Simonton