Home / Resources / Dealing with a difficult employee

Dealing with a difficult employee

Widening Your Perspective: The three chairs exercise

If you are in some kind of difficulty with a certain person or situation, then this exercise can help you have some insight into the perspective or point of view of that other person.

You can widen your perspective by using this practice to see what insight you can have on the other person’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Set up three chairs. Two of the chairs would face each other, and the other chair is the observer’s chair (position as desirable for the “observer”, at a little distance from the other two chairs so that you are “outside”).

When you sit in the first chair, begin to imagine that other person is facing you, sitting in the chair directly opposite. You are facing and gazing at each other. Talk to them as if they were actually there and tell them exactly what you are thinking, how you feel, what is going through your head, what you want from them – in fact everything you have wanted to say. There is no censorship in this exercise (though be mindful of the sensitivities of other observers. If using strong language, there should be some kind of agreement before the exercise begins).

Next, stand up, give yourself a shake to clear your mind of that role.

Move to the chair directly opposite your first chair. So now, imagine that you are the other person, talking to “you” in the first chair. So practise your empathy – imagine and pretend to be the other person. Try to see from his or her perspective (or point of view). As the other person, talk to “you” and say everything about how you feel, how you see the situation, how “you” make them feel etc. Again, try to talk in an uncensored way, imagining what they are really thinking and saying inside.

Finally, move to the last chair. You may prefer to stand and look down on the other two chairs. You are someone who is outside the situation, an observer – and a wise observer at that. From this perspective, ask yourself: “what is it that I see? What do I want for both persons sitting in the other chairs? What important things do they need to remember? What do I understand now about both sides? Do any solutions or strategies suggest themselves?”

Keeping the business benefit in the centre
Imagine that the business benefit is physically between all three chairs. What is the benefit you are all aiming for? How do the current behaviours on both sides impact on the business benefit?

Contributed by Carol Taylor this extract is taken from our Managing Difficult People course

Recent articles on our blog....

The word newsletter printed on white paper inserted into a selection of brightly coloured envelopes

Winter newsletter has tips to boost workplace wellbeing

February 13, 2024

The latest edition of our quarterly newsletter aims to boost workplace wellbeing with tips, resources and a story to warm your heart.

Read More →
Blurred image of a suited male pointing at exclamation mark hologram for overcoming culture of false urgency tip

Tips for overcoming a culture of false urgency at work

February 8, 2024

For our latest wellbeing at work tip, we look at some signs that a culture of false urgency may exist followed by suggested tips to overcome it for individuals, managers and team leaders.

Read More →
Photo of a colourful assortment of labelled files on shelves for resources for wellbeing at work newsletter

Some helpful resources for wellbeing at work

February 8, 2024

Our latest pick of external resources includes a compassion at work toolkit, annual work-related ill health statistics, a survey into workplace adjustments for disabled employees, and a report looking into supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Read More →



Our purpose is to provide training and consultancy services to enhance resilience, health and wellbeing in the workplace.


Differentiation is one of the most strategic and tactical activities in which companies most constantly engage


It's natural to have questions about training and how it fits with your organisation. Our FAQs can help you find out more.


View case studies for some of the in-house training courses we have delivered to different types of organisations across the UK.