Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Managing the Unmanageable part 1

The first in a series of articles exploring the subject of how Managers can effectively manage the more challenging members of their team to get engagement and improved performance. If you're a manager who feels that they spend 80% of their time dealing with 20% of their team members read on ...

The Unmanageable

We’ve all been there. A time in every leader, manager or supervisor’s life when all you thought you knew about leading and managing people goes out of the window and you’re faced with the employee from hell, the individual who doesn’t want to do as they are asked, the individual who fails to deliver on what was agreed. Those who think management is easy have evidently never met this employee!

The purpose of this series of articles is to offer leaders and managers some practical tips on what to do and what not to do when having difficult conversations with people at work. Drawn from 25 years of managing teams and developing other managers what is shared here are proven techniques that bring lasting results.

In a later article we will look at the TRAC model and how this can be used to structure your conversation and consider useful phrases that can be used to make these conversations constructive rather than destructive.

The Manager’s response

A manager’s response to this person can vary but are likely to fall into one of these responses:

·      Avoid – carry on as usual and hope the person changes or the problem goes away, this rarely works as the person is still there and the problem normally gets worse and can affect others in the team.

·      Move – a strategy used more often than one would think, the managers moves, transfers or promotes the person to another team. The ultimate example of “slopey shoulders ”, let someone else deal with the problem. As a manager I have been on the receiving end of this approach, a fact that I’ve been only too happy to take up with the exporting manager who has now passed their problem employee to me.

·      Attack – not physically one would hope, but going in all guns blazing, hoping that the shear force of the argument will compel the employee to change their ways. This tends to be end either with an angry exchange or with the employee making a complaint about their manager.

In this series of articles we will look at a practical alternative that will consistently bring you results.

Recognizing the unmanageable

Let’s dispel a myth now, the employee isn’t really unmanageable, the reality is most likely that one they have certain behaviours that need to be addressed and secondly they probably haven’t been managed properly in the past. The latter is particularly true if they have been the subject of the “move” strategy by their previous manager. 

As a leader and manager you are not expected to be a work place counsellor and your are not trying to pyscho-analyze people, however it is useful to be able to recognize some of the common personality types you may encounter.

·      Angry – who may also be aggressive, antagonistic, argumentative or confrontational
·      Anxious – who may also be pessimists, timid, over sensitive or worriers
·      Closed minded – who may also be biased, prejudiced or rigid thinkers
·      Blamers – who may blame others or circumstances and not take responsibility
·      Charmers – who may be charismatic, seductive or smarmy
·      Disrespectful – who may be dismissive, flippant or politically incorrect
·      Loners – who may not be team players
·      Negative – who may be pessimists or yes but-ers
·      Patronizing – who may be arrogant, belittling or pompous
·      Unmotivated – clock watchers, lethargic or unwilling

All of these characters bring with them a series of challenges that need to be understood so that the manager can apply an effective strategy to counter these behaviours. Mike Leibling in his book How People Tick focuses on over 50 different people types and how to handle them.

In the next article well look at how to deal effectively with the range of characters mentioned above.

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