Creating harmony by dealing with difficult people and situations
Marc is Head of Merchandising for an international company. The year has been turbulent but successful so far. His team met its target and the forecast is promising. However, there have been tricky situations throughout the year. So it’s time for Marc to look back and review how he dealt with difficult situations and team members. What went well and where could he have behaved differently?
Oh, snap! Marc remembers that he lost his temper with Turner during a meeting. This one loves to play Devil’s Advocate. He delights in taking the opposing view and he questions every new idea. It’s a sport for him. This time Marc exploded when Turner started again. He kicked him out of the meeting and said something along the lines of “leave the room if you can’t behave like an adult”. Afterwards, Marc felt ashamed in front of this team and was relieved when the meeting was over.
Turner is playing his usual game. Marc is close to exploding. But he doesn’t do it. Instead, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten inwardly. Then he says to Turner: “It’s good that you raise your concerns, but now isn’t the time to discuss this. I want to stick to my agenda and schedule.”
If Marc wants to be more direct he could have reacted like this:
“The world isn’t perfect, but we still need to make progress. It’s helpful that you point out problems, but it’s not really constructive unless you have a solution in mind or are trying to find one.”
Another technique Marc could try is co-creation: He could involve Turner in the project so that he has to contribute actively. If this doesn’t work either (if, for example, other co-workers complain about him not being constructive) then Marc should have a serious discussion with Turner to see if he is willing to change this annoying attitude.
While Marc was walking through the corridor, Nicole was talking with a group of colleagues. He heard her say that his new assistant had been hired because her father plays golf with one of the managing directors. Marc paused for a moment. Then he decided to have a talk with her because this wasn’t the first time Nicole had been spreading rumours and gossiping about colleagues. He told her that her behaviour was intolerable and reprimanded her for degrading the competence of his assistant who - by the way - was doing a good job. He made it clear that if something like that happened again, he would get HR involved.
Gossip is part of every office and that’s fine. However, it’s only acceptable to a certain extent. If it’s defamatory, manipulative, hurting people’s feelings or damaging the team’s motivation, then it’s high time to address it. As for Nicole, she was still talkative, but she was much more careful about what she said and to whom. So well done Marc!
A-Performer: “I’ve had an interesting job offer which I’ve accepted. I’ve been doing the same job for 3 years now, so it’s time for me to learn new things.”
Marc: “Why didn’t you say anything? We could have looked through things together and found something new for you. Can you still change your decision?”
A-Performer: “No, the contract is signed. Here’s my resignation.”
Marc had assumed that A was happy with his job. Or at least he’d never mentioned that he was getting bored or missing development. Nice excuse! Marc knows (at least in theory) that as a manager he should take care to develop his people, which is also the best way to keep their level of engagement high.
From now on, Marc will take more time to talk to his people about their expectations and wishes and he will check what could be beneficial for both sides. This costs time, but replacing good people costs even more. So if you want to keep them, don’t just see them as well-oiled machines.
Benjamin had been complaining about having too much work for months. Marc was getting tired of it and – to be honest – he didn’t take it very seriously because he thought Benjamin just complained a lot… Until this moment:
Benjamin: “I won’t be able to meet the deadline for the new pricing policy. I haven’t started working on it yet.”
Marc: “The new pricing is important. Other departments are waiting for it. And you’ve had about a month to get it done.”
Benjamin: “Do you know how many things I’m working on? And everything is always important. If I have to meet the deadline I can’t work on the proposals you requested.”
After this incident, Marc arranged a meeting with Benjamin and asked him to submit a list of all his tasks. Together they checked priorities (urgent and important, important but not urgent, further support needed) and Benjamin estimated the time needed for each task. For the next two months, Marc arranged meetings with Benjamin twice a week to set the right priorities for the coming weeks. It was also decided that Benjamin would attend time management training.
Benjamin accepted this approach because Marc helped out with the pricing policy, which was finally ready on time. Marc’s additional time investment in Benjamin paid off as he learnt to prioritise better and to ask for support if necessary. There was also more trust in their relationship than there was before.
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