Thinking about how to manage people means knowing that everyone’s a little different. There is no one “secret sauce” that works for every employee.
As the person in charge of the team, it’s your job to do everything you can to connect with your team—even when dealing with difficult employees.
A successful business is one where everyone works together. It doesn’t necessarily mean being best friends, but one bad egg can make it hard for everyone else to get their work done.
In this article we’ll look at some useful tips you can employ for managing people at work, repairing relationships, and if all else fails, how to gracefully end a partnership.
Get To Know The Person First
Removing the “employee” label from your interactions is a helpful way to deal with difficult employees. Sure, the person causing you distress or frustration is technically you’re subordinate (or even colleague). But tying work into your relationship might be one of the reasons you’re having trouble connecting.
There are many ways to get to know the people you work with (or for). For example, you could take your team on a staff retreat (or even do virtual team building activities). You can also do team lunches, schedule a happy hour, or something else that’s not work-related.
You might be surprised to learn that the person you’re struggling to manage is a different person outside of work. And if they aren’t—meaning they’re just downright difficult—at least you know you’ve exhausted an option that’s totally in your control.
Want to know how to “deal with” a difficult employee? For one, it might help to stop phrasing it that way. “Dealing with” implies the situation is unpleasant or challenging, and that negative framing might be bleeding through into your interactions.
The best thing you can do to manage any relationship is listen. No matter how strong of a leader you are, we all have blind spots and biases. This is why major CEOs hire a team around them simply to advise them—you can’t do it all on your own.
Effective listening skills, like keeping an open mind or staying attentive but relaxed, might help shed a light on something you’re missing that’s making the employee unhappy. Assuming you know what’s best or right in every situation is a surefire way to get burned, so be sure to turn these stones over before taking other actions.
These skills not only work at your job, but at home and in your relationships, too. Give them a shot.
When it comes to difficult employees, empathy behooves the manager, the employee and the company. As the person in charge, you may be able to better see where your employee is coming from, and he or she may be able to see you’re trying to connect with them.
So an employee is difficult to deal with. But chances are you two can still find some common ground. For example, he or she must at least be working there a little bit—or need to pay their bills. To some extent, you both care about the business.
Whenever possible, think of how you and your challenging employees can benefit from an interaction, decision, or situation.
If things continue to deteriorate with a subordinate, it’s probably best to begin documenting your interactions. Keep track of the facts and other pertinent information.
The reason this is important depends on each situation. Suffice it to say, though, you wouldn’t be the first boss to have an employee accuse you of doing something you didn’t do to “get even”. Keeping track of your interactions gives you a fallback in case things become irreparable.
It might sound like a cliche or something you’d read on a motivational poster, but oftentimes, the key to success is a simple act of courage. Is it possible to clear the air with the employee? What’s the root cause of the problem to begin with, and can you fix it with a challenging—but necessary—conversation?
Being a leader means assessing where you might be at fault with any situation. The buck stops with you, so anything you can present that might get your employee on your side can be useful.
Whether it’s a meeting in the office, stepping out for lunch with the specific employee, or calling an all-team meeting, be willing to be vulnerable. Remember, empathy is key.
Hold Employees Accountable
At the end of the day you are running a business, and businesses need to run smoothly in order to stay afloat. If the employee in question is not responding well to proactive measures, it may be time to make a move that’s in both your interests. Whether that means dismissal, a transfer, or a meeting with a third-party (like a higher-up), is up to you.
Work or not, there may come a point with any relationship where salvaging anything from it is not possible or can actually hurt other employees. If one employee is holding up others or preventing people from doing their best work, you may have to make a hard choice (if all else fails).
How To Manage People: Wrap Up
There are a lot of strategies on how to manage people, but at the end of the day it can be summed up with three steps.
Do your best to get to know the person and understand their thought process, be empathetic, and if you deem the situation a lost cause, make the decision that leaders get paid to make (whatever that is).