Must you compete ruthlessly to succeed? What if you don’t want to be like that? A lateral take on working with difficult people*

The LDC Development Team is running a series of four masterclasses on thinking, organising and collaborating facilitated by Dr Adrian West and Sophie Brown from Company of Mind.

Register now for the following face-to-face workshops in this series:


Working with Difficult People – Tuesday, 28th May 9:15 – 16:30 hours

Getting Organised for Research (and Life) – Thursday, 6th June 9:15 – 16:30 hours

Problem Solving and Decision Making – Tuesday, 18th June 9:15 – 16:30 hours

Here’s some thoughts from Company of Mind on the next masterclass on 28th May “Working with Difficult People“. 

We don’t get career success by beating our rivals with clubs any more. In fact in most of the civilised world you’ll get locked up if you do. To the degree that is true (and it’s at least true-er than it was), it’s surely a remarkable achievement of civilisation. Even if it’s not entirely clear how we managed to progress.

Well, that’s in the physical realm anyway. But the attitude of aggressive individual winning to get to the top is the dominant image for career success.  It’s commonly viewed as good and inevitable, but you could also say it’s just another primitive way of doing things that we haven’t yet got beyond; like beating each other with clubs.

I say this because a lot of people don’t really enjoy the aggressively competitive career world, and are rather put off by it – and that’s nothing to do with their talent or commitment. Some people love it too. Those are just different ways that people are made up. Yet in our culture this common message for the ‘right’ and ‘only’ way to be ‘successful’, brings problems.  Understandably, given the selection pressure, research hints at CEOs tending to score high on clinical scales of psychopathology, which has some implications for what it’s like to work in modern institutions. And the very people who end up in charge of things, end up controlling the narrative of what the right way to be is, which is self-perpetuating, reinforcing the messages everyone ends up unquestioningly believing.

In adversity we might find opportunity too, if we look.

If (like the majority of people) you’re not motivated by the ruthlessly competitive image and that’s not the sort of person you want to become, then how do you “succeed?  What does “succeed” mean if the existing criterion may be badly distorted?  This is important because the further you progress in your careers, by the above reasoning, the more ‘difficult’ people you will encounter. One response is to find a niche and hide away to side-step all that. But a more interesting approach is to ask the question “How do we work creatively with the people who see, and behave in the world, quite differently?”.  There are two reasons for doing this.

Firstly, if you get good at dealing with difficult people, you’ll be hugely valuable anywhere you go – especially in ‘technical’ and academic environments!  Secondly , with practice and confidence, those situations become a rewarding challenge in your life. You might even look forward to opportunities for practice.

To end on another positive future note, the shift in evolutionary studies is that cooperation out-competes competition. Whilst aggressively ambitious individuals do well within a team, a team of creatively cooperative people, outperforms the team with the ambitious individual (and sounds like a better life experience too).  In images, the trend is from the satanic miils of the ‘industrial revolution’ to the creative workplaces of technology outfits; from the “struggle for survival” to the “snuggle for survival”;  more KPop than DeathMetal. The opportunity is to be ahead of that curve.

* This blog isn’t the content of the “Working with Difficult People” workshop. But it is a novel take on why that might be a good area in which to increase capacity and gain skills. See the advertisment for the workshop to see what that’s about.

Dr. Adrian West & Sophie Brown, Company of Mind, www.companyofmind.com contact adrian@companyofmind.com

Enhance your teaching practice and gain experience in development workshops

Do you want to develop your teaching practice, gain further teaching opportunities and contribute to the University-wide development programme at Liverpool?

The Liverpool Doctoral College Development Team offer a programme of webinar and workshops to learn and practice skills in facilitation and to develop techniques to create your own development workshops. This programme is open to all postgraduate researchers at Liverpool.

This series also offers essential preparation for those who would like to join our Development Tutor Scheme and gain paid work experience teaching on the LDC Development programme.

Developing my skills as a facilitator with the LDC Development team has been very worthwhile. I’ve been able to work in a number of roles – assisting with the delivery of workshops and webinars, collaborating on the development of new programme activities, and leading my own sessions teaching other PhD students. The work has been enjoyable and my confidence in public speaking has improved a lot’. Natasha Bradley, Institute of Psychology, Health and Society.

Facilitation webinars and workshops:

Please following links for further details and registration

Webinar: Introduction to Facilitation30-Apr12:30 – 13:30
Becoming a Facilitator08-May09:30 – 12:30
Webinar: Designing Workshops14-May12:30 – 13:30
 Facilitating Workshops23-May13:00 – 15:30

Development Tutor Scheme

All postgraduate researchers at the University are invited to apply for this programme, which offers an  opportunity to:

  • Learn new skills in facilitation and how to use these skills to create your own workshops
  • Gain paid experience  delivering or assisting at LDC Development workshops and webinars
  • Shape and contribute to the development programme offered to  all PGRs at Liverpool
  • Add to your CV

 You will be paid for both delivery and preparation. This scheme is flexible, with opportunities to work at times to fit your own schedules and gain the experience most relevant to your ambitions. The scheme offers the following opportunities:

Assistance at workshops and webinars: We are looking for tutors to support the delivery of workshops, particularly ‘Taking Ownership of the PhD’  and to assist at webinars, where you can join the presenter  in delivery and share your own experiences.

Deliver your own workshops and webinars: Do you have an idea for a topic that you’d like to deliver as  a development workshop or webinar? We offer opportunities in our programme and the support and advice to help you convert your idea into practice.

Co-deliver the development of new webinars: We welcome new ideas for the webinar programme from researchers  who would like to work with us in the development and delivery of these sessions, which may then become part of our formal programme.

For further information please contact Dr Shirley Cooper, Shirley.cooper@liverpool.ac.uk

Advance your skills in Facilitation

Facilitation is an extremely useful skill for all researchers , to help manage meetings and working with others, particularly if you work in teams, work with people as part of your research or have opportunities in public engagement. It is also an important leadership skill and an extremely useful skill  to demonstrate for your future career.

The LDC Development Team is offering a new series of short workshops in September to help attendees gain and practise skills in facilitation. The series begins with a webinar to help you learn more about facilitation, followed by a workshop, which expands on the techniques of facilitation and provides practice to learn and practise these techniques. The series concludes with two workshops that focus on designing and facilitating your own teaching session using an experiential learning model.

The workshops are as follows (click on the link for further details and registration):

Date Time Title
19 Sep 12:30 – 13:30 Introduction to Facilitation
20 Sep 13:00 – 16:00 Becoming a Facilitator
26 Sep 13:00 – 16:00 Designing & Facilitating Workshops I
27 Sep 13:00 – 16:00 Designing & Facilitating Workshops II

Note: These events are designed as a series and attendance at each event is strongly recommended before attending the later workshops in this series.

Development Tutor Scheme

The workshops are open to all postgraduate researchers at the University of Liverpool and you can register for each workshop individually to learn facilitation skills, or you can attend these workshops in preparation for the Development Tutor Scheme. This scheme is  open to postgraduate researchers who have completed one year of their PhD. The scheme includes:

  • Training in facilitation
  • Observation sessions
  • Paid engagement to assist at LDC Development workshops and webinars
  • Opportunity to design and deliver your own short workshops or webinars, that form part of the LDC Development programme, with support from the LDC Development team

Registration for this scheme is open throughout the year and you can view further details of the scheme on our website:
https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/pgr-development/ tutors/

LDC Development Team