Set YOUR Potential Free

Getting the best out of the most difficult people

Go into any business, ask any manager and they will tell you that one of their biggest challenges is dealing with staff, more specifically dealing with those staff that they find ‘difficult’.  They will be able to recount stories of the antics of ‘difficult’ staff they have previously or currently manage, however they might forget to mention what those particular staff achieved while they were in their employ and the positive contribution they made to the business. The truth is that sometimes it is these very people who make the most valuable contribution to our businesses despite being ‘high maintenance’ employees.

Of course managing staff is a key responsibility for those who are in charge of businesses, departments and teams and a source of great satisfaction to many in these positions. Over the years there has been a great deal of research into business effectiveness in relation to the management of staff and fundamentally this research has determined that it’s not the staff who are the problem but management.
Productive Team

If only we treated people in a better way we would minimise our management stresses and strains and have a happier and more productive team.

Whilst this may be true for the most part, it is quite clear that some individuals are by nature complicated and testing regardless of the approach of management. Therefore we need to consider, in cases where what they bring to the business outweighs the inconvenience time spent managing them, what strategies we can use to move from them from difficult to delightful!

Perhaps we need first to look at why people are ‘difficult’ to be able to identify ways to overcome this. Most commonly it is inappropriate staff attitudes that have managers tearing their hair out and this can be frequently associated with feelings of fear and anger. A member of staff may be lacking in confidence in a particular aspect of their role for example and this ‘fear’ may manifest itself in a poor attitude or unwillingness to comply with workplace expectations. Equally lack of recognition or attention from management might result in a generally awkward manner with colleagues and customers alike.

Kenneth Blanchard, of One Minute Manager fame, urges managers to consider ‘different strokes for different folks’ and  to achieve this managers need to get close to staff in order to better understand what makes them tick, what is important to them and therefore what will make them better employees to manage.

Of course difficult staff are those that most managers wish to avoid, hoping that in time ‘things will sort themselves out’ without their intervention perhaps fearing the necessary communication/confrontation that is required to facilitate improvement. This not surprisingly compounds the difficulties which tend to fester and deteriorate, often impacting on other members of staff adversely and resulting in a major drama somewhere further up the road. In essence the sooner a problem is dealt with the better, as we all know, but tend to forget when it comes to real situations with our key people.

Management faults

Staff react badly to receiving attention from their managers only when they make a mistake or have encountered  problems but not when they handle an irate customer effectively or come up with a great idea for saving time and resources.

In 20 years of delivering training to hundreds of individuals the most common criticisms of management do not change. They are simply a lack of attention and time for staff, an inability to make decisions and deal with issues effectively as they occur and communicate well along with a lack of consistency in approach and behaviour ….. “I never know where I am with my manager”. We must remember that like children, our staff learn from us modelling the best and worst aspects of our behaviour and that to effect change in individuals we probably have to make some changes in ourselves. Michael Jackson said ‘let’s start with the man in the mirror’ and he was probably right!

Practical tips for getting the best out of challenging yet productive people: –

1. Know what each person brings to your business – quantify the contribution to measure against the pain factor of managing them and see if it’s worth it, if not take steps to remedy the situation
2. Make sure that your staff recruitment process provides you with the chance to identify potential problem staff – interviews are not enough to make a good selection decision – be creative and check references thoroughly
3. Know each staff as an individual, make regular time to get together and talk, not just when things go wrong, find out why they are ‘difficult’ if they have some personal issues encourage them to get some help outside
4. Be a great coach – coach your player’s right and they will bring in the results, if you need to learn the skills of coaching do so, invest in yourself. Coaching is about bringing out the best in people – it takes time but is a useful tactic for difficult staff
5. Deal with issues, poor attitudes and problems as they arise with calmness, the impact is far greater than waiting

6. Reflect on your own management style and approach; are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
Julia Miles

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