Let me ask you a question; do you have any ‘difficult’ people on your team? One of the subjects managers ask me more about than any other is: “How do I manage difficult staff?”
As we all know; dealing with the good guys is no problem, it’s the difficult ones that can be a challenge.
You might disagree, but hear me out on this; in my experience as a manager, I found that there are very few really difficult staff. The people on your team don’t necessarily think, look or act the way you do, but that doesn’t necessarily make them ‘difficult.’ It just makes them different!
The other day, I was listening to a teacher on television, talking about how he was unable to handle difficult schoolchildren. After listening to him for awhile, it became apparent that the problem didn’t lie with the children, as he was trying to suggest, but more with the teacher. He just wasn’t using good communication skills.
If you have a difficult team member, or even more than one, you may feel there’s not much you can do; but there is, so stay with me.
Instead of concentrating on managing difficult staff; it is much more productive to stop them being difficult in the first place. In other words; spend less time ‘fire fighting’ and more time on ‘fire prevention’.
If managers can create the right working environment for their team, then they’re less likely to experience difficult staff.
Here are two ways you could do that:
1. Spend some quality time.
I didn’t say ‘quantity time’ I said ‘quality time.’ One or two minutes of quality time on a regular basis are far more productive than a one hour review every year or six months.
You need to get to know your individual team members better and they need to get to know you.
Build a relationship with each individual; you’ll gain a much better understanding of them and how they’re handling the job. It will also give the impression that you care about them, and shows that you’re there to help with problems on a business level and a human level.
Find out as much as you can about them, their background, where they’re from, families, pets, hobbies, sports and their views on the world.
Discover their philosophies and faiths; how they think and how they feel. Just think about it like any other relationship – what do you want to know about this person?
Now I’m not suggesting you sit around all day gazing into each others eyes or spend half the night talking to them on the phone. And I’m certainly not suggesting that you become an agony aunt or uncle, trying to solve their personal problems.
What I am suggesting is that over a period of time, slowly but surely, you build up your understanding of the person. And, don’t get nervous; this isn’t prying!
You might also be thinking that your team members won’t want you to get to know them that well. Well let me reassure you, most of them will, if it’s done discretely.
Almost everyone wants to know that someone else is genuinely and positively interested in them. They may not always give that impression by their demeanour but trust me – they want to know you care; they want acceptance from you. If they know you care about them, then your relationship will be much more productive.
2. Concentrate on what they do well
Here’s another way to manage a difficult employee.
Try concentrating on what they do well and tell them about it. Spend less time with, and even ignore bad behaviour. It’s not uncommon for managers to invest 90 per cent of their energy responding to negative performance and only 10 per cent strengthening positive performance. If you ‘reward’ good behaviour - you’ll get more of it. If you ‘reward’ bad behaviour – you’ll get more of it.
It’s also very easy for a manager to fall into the trap of condemning one of their team as a no-hoper or a problem child. It may turn out that this person shouldn’t be on your team, and you may need to help them find another position. However as Abraham Lincoln once said about someone he had a problem with -
“I don’t think I like that man, I must get to know him better.”
Some food for thought; get to know each member of your team much better, concentrate on what they do well and you’re less likely to have difficult staff.
About the author
Article by Alan Fairweather, International Speaker and the author of, 'How to be a Motivational Manager, ‘How to Manage Difficult People' and ‘How to Make Sales When You Don't like Selling'. Visit: www.themotivationdoctor.com, for more information.