You can’t miss them, wherever they sit in the conference room. They usually have folded arms. They often slouch in their chair. Their countenance would make a lemon wince. They are not the majority, but their minority influence can squash a blooming idea like a sledgehammer on a rose. They are the “un-relatables,” the person or persons who resist your leadership style and substance. You can’t even get them to agree on a coffee and bagel break from a lengthy meeting!

What do you do with the “un-relatable?” Give them the toss or give them another try? I vote to give them another try.

1. Try to relate with them on a personal rather than a professional level. Get to know the “bio-graphics” of the person. Who DO they relate with (friend circle)? What are their “compelling interests” (hobbies or causes)? The search for a common ground is a first step to establishing a relationship with someone who is obviously a member of the “opposition party.”

2. Watch what interests them. Look around. What’s on the walls of their office or cubicle? Are there clues on their desk? What about the decals on their vehicles or logos on their sportswear? Brand loyalty is an open window to a person’s interest. Learn about them, use them as conversation starters, and comment on them regularly.

3. Make sure you have included them in off-the-clock activities. You won’t always get a return for your RSVP invite, but you will be noticed for your effort—even if they seem to oppose it. Much “un-relatedness” has its source in low self-esteem. If a person feels left out, they tend to be stand-offish. Make them feel like they are important to the team.

4. Employ their skills. Of course it’s not wise to let a “tiger” roam about. But you can channel their energies with some honest “bait.” Give your “un-relatables” a “meaty” assignment that reports directly back to you. Make them understand its importance. Let them know that their unique skill (and your appreciation) was the reason for the delegation.

5. Affirm their effort. Once their assignment is complete, butter their bread with praise. Everyone prefers a pat on the back instead of a knife. Watch how professional coaches treat their “problem child” athletes when they make a great play. And then watch the reaction of the player. They accept the praise—usually with a smiles and a fist-bump.

There aren’t as many “un-relatables” as you might think. Some are undercover loyalists who feel like they got the small slice of the pie. You’re the chef—and the server. Give them a bigger slice.

–Stan Toler