Sup­port and un­der­stand­ing is some­times the wrong way to go

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - JOBS -

a man­age­ment game of “pass the buck”. In­stead of tak­ing on the tough task of deal­ing with dif­fi­cult em­ploy­ees, some cow­ardly man­agers sim­ply trans­fer the trou­ble else­where. How­ever, now that Mark is your re­spon­si­bil­ity, your cur­rent ap­proach may be per­pet­u­at­ing the prob­lem.

Al­though your “sup­port­ive and un­der­stand­ing” strat­egy is un­doubt­edly well-in­ten­tioned, Mark will in­ter­pret this as ac­cep­tance of his dis­rup­tive be­hav­ior. There­fore, it’s time to shift your man­age­ment style to “firm and di­rect”. When con­fronted with se­ri­ous per­for­mance is­sues, man­agers must con­vey clear ex­pec­ta­tions about the need for change.

To be­gin this cor­rec­tive ac­tion dis­cus­sion, de­scribe the work-re­lated prob­lems created by Mark’s ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior. Ex­plain that he must learn to ex­press dis­agree­ments con­struc­tively, and then de­scribe the penalty that will fol­low an­other angry out­burst. Ask him to de­velop a writ­ten plan for solv­ing this prob­lem, and sched­ule a time to dis­cuss it.

Once you and Mark have agreed on ac­tion steps, es­tab­lish a sched­ule for as­sess­ing his progress. If he im­proves, praise him for his ef­forts. But if noth­ing changes, en­force the stated con­se­quences. Oth­er­wise, Mark will get the mes­sage that you weren’t re­ally se­ri­ous, and you’ll be right back where you started.

Q: I re­cently started a new job and can see many ways to im­prove op­er­a­tions. How­ever, my team leader gets de­fen­sive when­ever I sug­gest ways to in­crease ef­fi­ciency. “Jackie” has worked in this busi­ness for 19 years and seems very set in her ways.

So far, Jackie hasn’t used any of my ideas, even though they would be easy to im­ple­ment. How can I get her to be more open to change?

A: Let’s take a mo­ment to con­sider Jackie’s point of view. Af­ter com­fort­ably per­form­ing her job for al­most two decades, she is sud­denly be­ing told by a new­comer that she’s do­ing it all wrong. So are you re­ally sur­prised that she’s re­sist­ing your pro­pos­als?

Be­fore sug­gest­ing ad­di­tional im­prove­ments, in­vest some time in build­ing this re­la­tion­ship and learn­ing about the busi­ness. To show that you value her years of ex­pe­ri­ence, ask Jackie about cus­tomers, prod­ucts, the his­tory of the com­pany or any­thing else of in­ter­est. Once she feels that you ap­pre­ci­ate her knowl­edge, she’s more likely to welcome your ideas.

Fi­nally, when mak­ing sug­ges­tions, try to choose your words care­fully. Say­ing “you could do that more ef­fi­ciently” sounds like per­sonal crit­i­cism. But stat­ing “I think we might be able to make the billing process more ef­fi­cient” keeps the fo­cus on the work.


Marie G. McIn­tyre is a work­place coach and the au­thor of “Se­crets to Win­ning at Of­fice Pol­i­tics.” Send in ques­tions and get free coach­ing tips at http://www.yourof­fice­, or fol­low her on Twit­ter of­fice­coach.

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