Dealing with Difficult Staff / Developing Delightful Employees
“A person's success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” – Tim Ferris (American author, entrepreneur, angel investor, public speaker and Tango Dancing Guinness World Record Holder).
So you’re managing a team! Fantastic. You’ve obviously done all the things right. Now, it’s time to do all the right things. Being a great manager means being a leader and being responsible not only for your team’s success, but also for their satisfaction.
If you’re expecting instant loyalty and commitment, you might want to consider getting an office dog then. Your team will be a mixed bunch of people you’ll have to motivate. Motivation isn’t a talent: it’s a skill. Some of your employees will be motivated by pizza and compliments, others will be encouraged by targets and supervision. Most likely, your team will include some stars but also the usual suspects: the Victim, the Negative Nelly, the One Who’s Sick on Mondays…
The following 3 points break down office life into “Post-It” note sized points:
1. Firstly you’ll need to listen, regularly.
It’s essential that you make time for regular talks with each employee to get to know them, and for them to get to know you. This builds trust between you both.
It’s your job to figure out the individual motivations, thoughts, fears and ambitions of everyone in your team. Agree customised training plans, set goals and talk about how to achieve them with each employee. Keep the individual plans somewhere private but accessible (eg. a password protected document) so that you and your employees can look over them and discuss progress.
2. Secondly, manage the conversation.
“Speculate to accumulate”, as they say, but what if all you accumulate is rumours and negative opinions of a “difficult” member of your team?
Similarly, your internal dialogue can be toxic to yours - be aware of how you are referring to individuals in your own mind and train yourself to avoid thinking of John as simply “difficult” based on a few previous issues that have now been sorted out.
3. Thirdly, don’t be afraid of getting personal.
Many managers feel that it’s not their place to discuss behaviour issues (eg. a general “bad attitude”) with a member of staff as long as “the work is being done.” However, behavioral performance is an aspect of professional performance.
Often, managers are scared of the reaction of the employee or worried about the social etiquette or even the legality of overstepping professional / personal boundaries. To avoid this problem, simply be more specific – define “a bad attitude” by pointing out specific behaviors. Rather than say, “You have a bad attitude”, try “I’ve noticed you’ve been late 3 times in 4 days – is there a reason?”
To be a successful manager and enjoy a rewarding career, you’ll need to be patient, passionate and trustworthy… and after a challenging week, you might find this article useful.