Post-COVID Ramp Up Series—Master Six Difficult People Avatars: Bring out the Best in Anyone!

Look left. Look right. If you don’t see a difficult person, then it must be your turn.

COVID has stretched our patience and imaginations. We have grumped, groaned, and … we are still struggling with how to manage difficult people as we face the psychological impact of this unprecedented crisis.

When in doubt, let’s look at what we can do.

Seven Avatars
Audiences, consulting clients, and loved ones inspired me to create seven characters that invite empathy, humor, and useful brainstorming about managing difficult people. In truth the avatars are not difficult people.

Six avatars represent disruptive communicator styles that you might encounter in everyday life. It’s about habit and mindsets, not personality. There’s hope!

The seventh Avatar, the Super Dog, embodies communication excellence in mindsets, skills, and actions. The Dr. Red Shoe Super Dog is based on Oliva, my sweet-and-not-so-brave rescue grand dog.

  • Each character is described, and three action steps are offered to bring out their best
  • Ask yourself, “What solutions might work for me, my team, and loved ones?” “How might I contribute to the solution?”


One. Peacock Diva.
“Ta da! I’m here!”
Characteristic Downfall: Entitled, attention-seeking, know-it-all, it’s all about them, dram
Saving Grace:  Creative, can be influential, funny, charming

  1. Put them to work on a focused task such as taking minutes or writing ideas on a flip- This keeps them up front and busy. Channel their need to shine.
  2. When they go off-topic, avoid interruptions, and encourage ideas by saying, “Hold that thought,” or have the Diva write down the idea on an idea sheet or flipchart as a tabled item.
  3. Ask for their input as part of a round robin to make sure they get the attention they need and ensure their contribution.

 Two. Pirate Warthog Bully.
“I win. You lose.”

Characteristic Downfall: Dominates, takes charge without input from others, diminishes others
Saving Grace: Can be a good leader with support, can be organized, influential 

  1. Set the tone with private chats to channel their misguided leadership urges or ask them to take point on something.
  2. Put them in charge of summarizing the group’s agreements, ideas, or assigned task This encourages the bully to listen to others.
  3. Redirect bully behavior by immediately asking the bully for their input. Make neutral statements, like, “What would you do?” or “Let’s hear from ” Avoid shaming the bully to invite effective participation.


Three. Camo Groundhog.
Motto: “Please, let me go unnoticed.”
Characteristic Downfall: Camouflaged: hides, avoids change, trouble, chaos, and growth, does not initiate, invisible
Saving Grace: Some don’t miss a thing and have much to offer when asked, others are tuned out and cause no harm

  1. In a private setting, ask for their input before or between
  2. Use round robin formats, going around the group to create a culture of expectation that everyone will be asked for
  3. Assign them solo or paired tasks to honor their need to remain under the


Four. Eye-rolling Canary.
This is stupid!”
Characteristic Downfall
Unspoken criticism: frustrated, annoyed, angry, first to “sniff out” bad air in any mine shaft, sings like a helpful canary when asked for input
Saving Grace
Attentive, often has great insight and ideas, sniffs out BS, conflict, boring, untruths, stupid

  1. The eye-roll is a great asset if you allow it to direct your attention to possible problems. No need to point it out; just use it.
  2. Use round robin formats, going around the group to create a culture of expectation that everyone will be asked for their input.
  3. When the eyes start rolling, say, “I see you have something to say” or “What are your thoughts?” and wait for them to share.

Five. Laughing Hyena.
“Now, this is funny!”
Characteristic Downfall Class clown: hijacks attention with off-task jokes, pranks, and high- jinx; can be insecure or angry
Saving Grace
Funny, creative, can improve morale and build rapport

  1. Ask for jokes before or at the start of the meeting, or invite folks to prepare a joke, if they like.
  2. Before the meeting, let them know you value their input and are looking forward to hearing their ideas about a specific agenda item.
  3. When disruptive, tell them to hold off until the end. If they persist, calmly state “It’s time to focus on the task at-hand.” Privately, remind them of the importance of sharing appropriate jokes only before or after meetings.

Six. Pink Fluffy Biting Bunny.
Motto: “I can help you… fail.”
Characteristic Downfall:  Sabotage, resentful, hidden anger, troublemaker, sneaky saboteur, this “sweet, innocent” bunny bites
Saving Grace: Great planning ability, uncanny sense of others’ strengths and vulnerabilities 

  1. Because this is the least trustworthy and workable team member, document misdeeds, ethical blunders, and efforts to steal credit, harm reputations, instill confusion, raise tension, and create a hostile
  2. Be prepared. Clarity, transparency, and accountability make it hard for them to misbehave with harmful impact. Bunny tactics do not work in public Biting Bunnies thrive behind-the-scenes.
  3. State expectations clearly and back up all agreements with respectful emails to the group clarifying who is accountable for each
  4. Avoid giving them tasks that require behind-the-scenes communication with team members, leaders, staff, vendors, or visitors. Group communication makes it harder for the bunny to bite.
  5. Consider re-assigning them or setting them free to find work in a field that involves drama, limelight, and creativity. Follow company, state, federal, international, and galactic codes, and rules. Know the HR guidelines for documentation, censure, and reporting.


 Seven. Red Shoe Super Dog.
Motto: “We can do it!”
Characteristics: Effective: direct, neutral, compassionate, authentic, effective leadership skills, inspire excellence
Saving Grace
A skilled communicator and a generous team champion

  1. Red Shoe Leaders bring out the best in each team member to ensure solutions leverage the team’s strengths.
  2. They create leaders, bolster the bottom line, and are worth following.
  3. They build productive, contributing teams and foster potential in themselves and others.

Stay tuned for more blog articles.


© 2021 Dr. Red Shoe.
Dr. Red Shoe
solves people problems so leaders and teams can create productive workplace cultures, build vibrant teams, and promote ethical leadership.
+1-954-609-9904 ET

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Thanks to cartoonist Carlos Jimenez for helping them come alive.