How to Work with Difficult People with Amy Gallo

Amy Gallo at the CultureLab Podcast

Work relationships can be hard.

The stress of dealing with difficult people dampens our creativity and productivity, and degrades our ability to think clearly and make sound decisions. It causes us to disengage.

We might lie awake at night worrying, withdraw from work, or react in ways we later regret—rolling our eyes in a meeting, snapping at colleagues, or staying silent when we should speak up.

Too often we grin and bear it as if we have no choice. Or we throw up our hands because one-size-fits-all solutions haven’t worked. But you can only endure so much thoughtless, irrational, or even malicious behavior—there’s your sanity to consider, and your career.

This is why, we are thrilled to have Amy Gallo, workplace expert and Harvard Business Review podcast host, joining us in a discussion around the subtle yet essential role of conflict in creating an environment where people can do their best work.

Amy Gallo is the best-selling author of Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict, a how-to book about handling conflict professionally and productively.

In this episode of the CultureLab podcast, we are inviting leaders to invest time in conflict coaching team members to independently handle conflicts, urging a shift in mindset to view it as a strategic investment.

Join Amy and me as we delve into workplace conflicts and tensions, exploring how they can be harnessed for cultural transformation and become opportunities to connect.

Episode highlights

Navigating conflict and the essence of getting along

Amy emphasizes conflict as integral to strong relationships and challenges the misconception that a good working environment means the absence of disagreements. We need to embrace and navigate conflicts to deepen connections and work better together.

Dealing with difficult colleagues

Amy provides practical insights into handling challenging colleagues, addressing the concept of the “brilliant jerk.” Strategies like focusing on specific behaviors, setting team norms, and initiating direct conversations offer actionable advice for positive change in workplace interactions.

Addressing difficult behavior

We explore the emotional aspects of having courageous conversations with difficult colleagues. Overcoming the fear of confrontation, understanding the message impact, and evaluating the true costs of not addressing issues can be the key framework for tackling workplace challenges.

Shaping workplace culture and planting the seeds for behavioral change

We delve into reshaping workplace culture, discussing the challenges of confronting hindering behaviors and urging reflection on the consequences of inaction. Ww talk about the need for leaders who focus on the long-term impact of feedback when providing constructive criticism and are realistic about immediate changes.

The leader as a coach

Coaching is a primary approach to guide individuals in resolving conflicts themselves. It is important to understand the essence of disagreements, setting goals, and deciding on appropriate actions.

Framing conflict

The transformative power of framing conflicts positively is very powerful, addressing the internal struggle leaders may face by aligning beliefs with actions.

Normalizing tensions

We need to name and normalize tensions more than ever. For example, we can provide a roadmap to leaders to encourage healthy discussions.

Redefining conflict as desirable

We explore the psychological dimensions of conflict, urging leaders to frame conflicts as desirable as it fosters an environment for constructive conversations.

Leadership dilemma: balancing time, stress, and team development

Amy tackles the leadership dilemma of balancing time constraints and stress while investing in team development, emphasizing the long-term benefits of coaching and seeing it as a strategic investment instead.

Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.

More about Amy Gallo

Amy Gallo is a workplace expert who writes and speaks about gender, interpersonal dynamics, difficult conversations, feedback, and effective communication. She works with individuals and  teams to help them better collaborate, communicate, and transform their culture to support dissent and debate.

Gallo is the best-selling author of: Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) and the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict. She has written hundreds of articles for Harvard Business Review, where she is a contributing editor. Her writing has been collected in numerous books including ones on feedback, emotional intelligence, and managing others.

For the past three years, Amy has co-hosted HBR’s popular Women at Work podcast, which examines the struggles and successes of women in the workplace.

Gallo has delivered keynotes and workshops at hundreds of companies and conferences. Plus, she is frequently sought out by media outlets for her perspective on workplace dynamics, conflict, and difficult conversations. Her advice has been featured in ****the New York Times, , the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Marketplace, and The Austin American-Statesman, as well as on WNYC, the BBC, and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

She has taught at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of both Brown and Yale University.

Books mentioned in this episode

Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People) by Amy Gallo

The Right Kind of Wrong by Amy Edmondson

Inclusion on Purpose by Ruchika Tulshyan

Shows mentioned in this episode

Kristin Neff on Self-Compassion Hidden Brain

Ted Lasso

Additional resources

CultureBrained® Community – a one-of-a-kind virtual community for Heads of Culture, founders, and leaders who want to up their culture game.

The Culture Playbook Guide.

Discover Your Personal Values.

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