Dealing with Difficult People in the Grant Writing Process

I’ve talked about working in collaboration with others for planning and seeking grants. In general, I don’t write grants in committee unless there’s a requirement to do so. In all grant projects, you need to sit down with stakeholders in the school community who will benefit from the grant. This is an unavoidable part of preliminary planning, but it’s not the same thing as writing in committee.

Sometimes though, you can’t avoid it, maybe your Superintendent has suggested a collaborative environment for grant writing. She means well, and it can unfold successfully, but it’s not my preferred way to work. There are many reasons for this; the biggest one is avoiding turf wars.

Anyone who puts in hours of work on a grant project needs to be recognized. Sometimes, though, an individual will assert herself early; she needs to have some control, disapproves of just about everything and is a PITD (pain in the derriere). During stakeholder meetings, as you’re selecting committee members, you can get a sense of who is going to be a PITD.

In this scenario, your superintendent is requiring the committee and has recommended the PITD for membership. This may be the reason for the assignment; the PITD needs something to do and the superintendent is using your committee to get her out of the way of other district projects.

Actually, the superintendent is showing good leadership skills, they know that the PITD needs two things:

  1. Recognition
  2. Control

The number one way to deal with this person is to give her something important to do. This solves both of her requirements and provides the vehicle for the recognition.

Difficult people are frustrated in their jobs for many different reasons related to the two needs. Their frustrations build and grow until they are a full-blown PITD. The key is to spot it early and give her an assignment that will be useful to the overall project but moves her away from the center of the group. That’s where you belong; you’re the leader, the grant writer extraordinaire and the boss. You need to establish roles for the players early in the project. Don’t leave anything to speculation. One way to do that is create a Gantt chart and a project hierarchy outline that you give the superintendent and others on the team.

Suggested projects for the PITD:

  1. Demographics Diva: preparing and writing the demographics section of the narrative – very useful and important but it’s a research job, not a decision making job.
  2. Compilation Assistant (?) – the person who is responsible for proofreading all parts of the documents, making sure all parts of the package are completed correctly. This appeals to the PITD’s need for order too.
  3. Any task that takes advantage of the PITD’s strong suit. C’mon now, everyone has at least one, as the leader you need to figure out what that is and give the PITD a task that uses those skills.

Some of my suggestions are simple project management techniques. The difficult person conundrum is really just that, a management task. No amount of cajoling, ego stroking, or sweet talk is going to manage the PITD. Handle her early, formally, and professionally, with pictures posted on the wall for clarity and for all to see. Don’t give her much wiggle room; she’ll try valiantly to wiggle but don’t let her.

Here are some other tips for project and personnel management in a grant-writing environment:

I’m speaking here as if it’s easy, and it’s not. It took me years to develop skills to manage people in many situations. My number one skill is to have a great sense of humor, let a smile be your umbrella.

Let me know how you’re doing. You may network with me by leaving a comment below.


This entry was posted in Grant Research, Grant Writing on by .

About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *