Deal With Ungrateful People

How To Deal With Ungrateful People

Reading Time: 7 minutes


Morning all,

Thu 8 Apr

Late to bed, late to rise today so starting much later than I’d like to – but hey-ho (is this expression familiar to you) – it’s still 90 minutes before 9 am which is good.

I want to talk today about how to deal with ungrateful people by framing it around a situation I’m facing at the moment.

We’ve got a newer member of the team here at Pearl Lemon who’s now running the show when it comes to our lead-generation clients.

And we had a challenge come up recently which may well be my own fault – but I thought it would be good to discuss it here with you from the point of view of taking pragmatic and positive action when someone is ungrateful and may end up leaving.

So I’m talking from the perspective of Pearl Lemon and our journey with an amazing team I’m trying to build person by person.

I want to first outline a couple of truisms:

It’s safer to expect nothing from people

Nothing from People

Time and experience teach me that what people say, and what they do are poles apart. And they become even further apart when things don’t go smoothly.

Along the journey of building a business, the roads are turbulent and there’s going to be chaos along that journey.

So what people say, and even what they intend to do might not actually be what happens.

So this is probably the biggest thing when dealing with human beings (in general) to understand.

It’s just safer to have no expectations of anyone, and so if you run into problems you have nothing to be upset about.

Hope for the best, expect the worst

Hope for the best

This runs in line with what I’ve said above.

I don’t advocate for cynicism or negativity in your behaviour.

I think you should still approach things and people with gusto and give everything you can to help those around you be successful.

Practising positive, practising gratitude, focussing perennially on the positives.

The challenge comes with our expectation of returns, however.

You’ve probably been in that situation when you give someone something for free – and see they don’t appreciate it.

And then you get frustrated with that person (which is the premise of a lot of blogs about dealing with ungrateful people as I was googling) for their ‘lack of appreciation’.

That’s horsesh*t though.

It is your expectations of how they should respond that has set you up for failure. Expecting nothing will make you happiest.

And then anything that comes after that is a bonus.

Now, of course, we hope for consistency in returns in a work environment – but it’s safer to be comfortable with being let down at any moment.

Even if said person has been performing brilliantly for years.

And why is that?

You can’t (ever) know the magnitude of what someone else is going through

Someone else is going through

Strawberry and I will have been together 10 years this winter – and we’ve spent thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of hours together.

I’ve also read books on understanding the opposite sex, on being a better relationship partner, have had multiple conversations asking for advice from friends, family, therapists as well as ‘Googling’ at any point of conflict.

And I’m still learning things about her.

So how can I ever expect to know people I work with as well as I know Strawberry – because the time we spend together will NEVER match the time I spend with family.

So with all of this in mind – people/a person can be loyal, can be consistent for days, weeks, months, years on end – and then just totally disappear without reason.

In my instance, we had a member of our team who was away on holiday and it was unclear how ‘away’ she was.

Consequently, she got dragged back into work because pressure (coming from me) demanded it.

I forgot she was away as she was responding to work messages and said she would be ‘available when she could’.

Consequently, she has now said ‘she doesn’t know if this is for her’, even in spite of our multiple discussions about commitment and loyalty.

In such a circumstance – even in spite of my consistency in my commitment to her – I cannot be upset for more than a moment by this.

I don’t know what the details of her life are. I don’t know whom she has been let down by. I don’t know what her being dragged back into work has done for the way she felt.

She has mentioned that she felt ‘shamed’.

Now – in circumstances such as this – it’s important to do some of the following things:

Try and understand the other person

Understand Other Person

When people feel ungrateful or indeed feel anything – it’s important to have open and honest communication about what is going on.

Otherwise, you deal with massive misinterpretation borne through inferences, warped perspectives and the like.

We have a call booked later today and I need to make sure I take the opportunity to allow her to be heard.

To understand why she is upset, why she is considering dropping out and all.

I must, irrespective of the ultimate outcome – learn from this.

And learning comes from listening.

Even if you hear nothing because the other person says nothing.

Why would they not say anything?

It’s likely because….

They don’t feel…




Or something of the like.

If they do speak – then LISTEN and learn.

There’s power in the learning of someone else’s perspective, of trying to put yourself into their shoes – because it helps you become a more empathetic and therefore competent business owner.

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The power of being unsurprised by disappointment


The power of going into situations and dealing with someone who is ungrateful, uninterested or otherwise means that generally, it may be the case you won’t end up working with that person anymore.

This means that it’s naive to not have backup/replacement/learning protocols in place to handle any bad outcome.

It only will make your position stronger – such that no matter what happens you improve as a consequence.

Let me give you some of the learnings that have come out from this scenario of internal challenges.

Developing a framework to cope with this the next time it happens

Developing a Framework

  • Expect this to happen again so you can manage the emotionality of it all
  • Hold/reserve any critical/direct judgement until that person returns

In my instance I sent several messages giving my thoughts on the matter without clarifying if what I thought she meant was what she actually meant – as it turns out she meant something completely different.

  • If it turns out you are correct and things are not right – then it pays to try and:
  • Resolve issues as quickly as possible
  • Prepare for this person’s exit

Run A Situational Audit

Situational Audit

If someone is ungrateful/upset ask yourself:

  • What led to them being upset:

In my team member’s case (let’s call her Helen) – she was away on holiday – which I forgot as messages were being sent across to her in a group WhatsApp chat about a client issue that had come up.

The only person who could solve this was Helen but I (not remembering she was away) was repeatedly asking questions and wondering why she wasn’t promptly responding.

  • What can be done to prevent this next time?
  1. Discovering there is a ‘Business Whatsapp I”m away’ function you can use for when you go on holiday so everyone is reminded you’re away and have limited availability
  2. Encouraging/making Helen aware there are strategies such as uninstalling the app/blocking the app/putting the app on another phone to prevent you from looking at it during certain hours
  3. Also discovering you can use business WhatsApp as a kind of CRM
  4. Also discovering that you can connect Facebook and Instagram via Whatsapp messaging
  5. Agreeing that when one of us is unclear on a message sent we should clarify with voice notes rather than written messages (which are open to interpretation)
  6. Having a pre-holiday call to discuss the time away so we’re all better prepared

These are all of the actions that occurred within 2 hours of discovering this issue with Helen. Points 3 & 4 are really bonus things – side effects of trying to rectify the main issue.

  • What else can be done to stop this from happening with anyone else as well?
  1. Made it known to HR that during onboarding and with all current team members – it is their duty to manage their own WhatsApp channels – and not the team’s duty to not message them
  2. Told the hiring team to initiate hiring for a potential replacement for Helen. Asked the hiring team to build up their resources for finding replacements in South Africa where there’s great economic labour
  3. Asking 2 South Africans I know about best job boards and universities to hire from – and passing this onto HR

The huge upside of dealing with ungrateful people

Ungrateful People

You learn to become less emotional (or rather maybe just as emotional but more pragmatic) with people around you.

You also develop robust coping mechanisms that can actually help drive the business further forward.

It sets you up to become a better business owner.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Well – I had a call with Helen and minus an anxious 18 hours which in part led me to writing this blog post to help think it all out – there have been 9 actions that have come from this whole experience.

And that is perhaps the biggest takeaway from all of this when it comes to dealing with ungrateful people –

There is always something to be learned from it – and as it turns out – Helen wasn’t ungrateful at all.

We just miscommunicated – but from that miscommunication, many many good things have come out.

So thank you, Helen!


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