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Do you have “difficult” direct reports?
February 05, 2019
What do you do with “difficult” employees?
IF you have one or more direct reports – this is for you:
Within the universe of the team you lead – meaning – you and your direct reports:
Do you have this situation – or a situation somewhat similar?
Do you have “difficult staff – staff that ranges from being elusive, secretive, socially awkward, overbearing, and condescending”?
These are the exact same words that one of you – one of my readers – sent to me, asking me what to do.
This reader works for a government agency – so this manager doesn’t have the choice of firing or reassigning staff.
What do you do if you have direct reports that you perceive to be evasive, uncommunicative, socially awkward, dominating, and talk down to people?
Obviously – I cannot give you a precise answer because I don’t have all the information and all the variables about “this” specific situation.
But I am going to give you an “answer” from a general perspective.
An “answer” that applies to any of you – if you have direct reports that you perceive to be “difficult.”
How long have your difficult direct reports been reporting directly to you?
IF they have been reporting directly to you for just a couple weeks – you better do something to change their behavior – fast! (Continue reading to find out what)
But if they have been reporting directly to you for three months or longer – and their undesired behavior has been like this for two months or longer – then my dear reader – I must be honest with you:
IF this is the case, the problem does NOT reside in your direct reports – BUT in the lack of leadership to manage their performance.
In other words – the problems resides in you – their disciplinary supervisor, their boss.
Please allow me to ask you another question:
Who is responsible for the performance of the team you lead – you or your direct reports?
In order to have the control of the team you lead – you want to be fully, 100 percent responsible for the performance of the team you lead.
Hence – if you have direct reports that are exhibiting undesired behavior – it is your responsibility to change such behavior.
Now – going back to you question:
What do you do with “difficult” direct reports like that?
To answer your question – I am going to ask you to change 180 degrees the direction of your look:
Instead of looking at your direct reports – I am going to ask you to look at yourself.
Now – looking at yourself:
HOW do all of these “difficult” employees perceive you to be – and WHY do they perceive you the way they do?
Do you know?
If you don’t know – you must find out – you must ask them.
I repeat: Ask them
I did NOT say go ahead and start a discussion with them trying to tell them that they are “wrong” and that you are “right”
I said, “Ask them”
Really – go ahead and find out HOW they perceive you the way they do – and WHY.
You want to learn what it is you are doing – and not doing – that may be part of the problem.
When you perceive somebody to be a “difficult” person – it usually means (not always) that you don’t know and understand the person in question well enough – and it usually means (not always) that this person doesn’t know and understand you well enough either.
Also – when you have direct reports that you perceive to be “difficult” – it usually means that you have not created an open communication environment within the team you lead.
It also means that you have not created trust either.
It is extremely difficult – and painful – to lead a team of direct reports without trust, and without an open communication environment.
I could go on and on … giving you reasons about why coworkers perceive each other as being “difficult”
But going back to your original question: What should you do?
Remember – you are responsible for the performance of the team you lead.
Your job is – as the leader of the team you lead – to create an open communication environment, and trust.
One way to start creating an open communication environment with your direct reports is to ask them HOW they see the world, and WHY.
Do NOT get into a discussion with them.
Just ask them open-ended questions to better understand them.
You must be humble though (by the way, “humility” is a fundamental leadership competence).
You must approach them with the genuine intention to getting to know them better.
You will learn a lot – both, about them and about yourself.
I am NOT saying that your direct reports are “normal” and that you are the “difficult” person.
No – I am saying that it is your responsibility to change their behavior.
But before you change something – in order to change it – first, you must know it – you must “measure it” so to speak.
You and your direct reports are on the same boat.
Hence – your job is to build win-win relationships with them.
This is your responsibility and your job – not theirs.
When you assume this responsibility – then, you get the “control” of your team’s performance.
You job is to build relationships with your employees based on TRUST, CANDOR and CARE.
I am not saying that you must “like” your direct reports (although that helps).
I am saying that you and your direct reports are on the same boat, and that your job is to get them to row together.
The reason you are together is to deliver results – isn’t it?
This is why you must build win-win relationship with them – I repeat – based on TRUST, CANDOR and CARE.
Your job is – as the leader of the team you lead – to build trust and an open communication environment.
If you don’t – you will suffer the consequences indeed.
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See you next month!
Joseluis Romero - Publisher
February 5, 2019. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month
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