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Dealing With Dramatic Employees

November 9th, 2018

Let’s face it: A modern office with grey upholstery and windows that overlook a parking lot just isn’t a very interesting place. Polite conversation, strained laughter, plastic coffee stirrers and repetitive tasks just don’t have much Oscar-winning movie potential. And when confined to such spaces day after day, many of us find new outlets for our emotions. If you’ve ever turned into an Olympic sprinter upon hearing news of free cake in the break room, you understand this phenomenon. And if you’ve ever felt like screaming at your desk for no reason … we understand. Some people manage these feelings more easily than others. Here’s how to deal with workers who channel their in-office emotions inappropriately or excessively —the employees we call “dramatic.”

First, judge not.

Dramatic employees are not stupid, crazy or undisciplined. We ALL feel this way when we’re placed in conducive circumstances. So, remember: The circumstances are the problem, not the person. If we decided to throw all “dramatic” employees out the door, none of us would be spared, including you. Treat others the way you would want to be treated should you find yourself in their shoes, which you eventually might.

Recognize that conflict is rarely what it seems.

Steve is extremely, unreasonably upset because Karen ate his lunch, or because Sally spoke rudely to him during a meeting, or because he thinks Amed has a secret he isn’t sharing. Before you discount Steve’s concerns, recognize this probably isn’t just about the stolen lunch. If Steve and Karen have a simmering, unspoken conflict, address the conflict, not the lunch.

People cry at work. Deal with it.

In some imaginary distant era, “professionalism” meant keeping a cool head, and keeping cool head—for some reason—absolutely precluded workplace tears. Workplace yelling may have been okay sometimes, and workplace swearing had its place, but crying was absolutely, positively, never, ever acceptable in a professional venue. Such a cultural requirement is not only impossible, it’s ridiculous. People cry. They cry at work. Let them. Accept this perfectly normal form of human expression and make sure others do as well. Occasional tears are part of healthy and functional human interaction. Keep tissues available around the office.

Maintain a culture of perspective

It feels terrible to lose an account because of a mistake, or to have a proposal rejected after weeks of work. It’s terrible to endure a botched roll-out or a product that flops. But these things happen. It’s how you bounce back—as a person and as a team—that defines your success. A climate in which “failure is not an option” breeds excessive, toxic and unnecessary drama. If you don’t want a workplace in which employees claw at each other, scream, lie, swear, hide, hold grudges or throw tantrums, don’t build rigidity into your culture. Place perspective, teamwork and learning above a relentless focus on success metrics that fall outside of your control.

For more, contact the management and career development experts at Merritt.

Are You a Bad Boss?

October 19th, 2018

You’ve finally reached the management stage of your career, a level at which you hold sway over the positions, responsibilities, paychecks and expectations of other people. You’re a leader now, which is to say, a boss. But are you a good boss? Are you effective? Are you respected? Are you liked?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your leadership skills and look for areas where your management style could use a little work.

First, don’t coast.

Bad bosses usually don’t KNOW they’re bad bosses. And even when they do, they rarely choose to become bad bosses on purpose. Nobody does that. When you’ve earned the respect, trust and appreciation of your team, they tend to make this clear. If you haven’t, your employees aren’t likely to tell you anything at all. There are no billboards to inform you when you’re going down the wrong road. So, as you conduct your self-assessment, be brutally honest. Don’t assume little birds will bring the news; be brave and seek it out.

Give your employees a chance to speak their minds.

If you ask a subordinate, point blank, if they like and respect you, you won’t get an honest answer. But if you let your employees know you’re open to both general and project-specific feedback, you follow through on that by receiving the feedback gratefully and acting on it directly, you’ll get better results, more honesty and more helpful information.

Don’t make people share twice.

Here’s a habit we often employ when we face painful corrections, hard advice or negative feedback: we ask twice. We say, “Am I doing this wrong?” and when we get an affirmative answer, we ask again until we get the answer we’d rather hear. Don’t do this. If you’re told—even subtly—that your directions are unclear, your demeanor is ineffective, your jokes aren’t funny, your example isn’t inspiring or your work ethic could be improved, don’t respond by asking again. Just swallow that bitter pill and get to work on fixing the problem.

Be the person you want your employees to be.

If you want them to stay late, stay late and come in early. If you want them to care more about bigger-picture project outcomes, show you care about these outcomes more than anyone. If you want them to edit their emails carefully until they contain no typos, don’t send out emails with typos. If you want them to take safety rules seriously, make sure they see you doing the same. Don’t set standards that you don’t personally intend to meet. This includes everything from communication to organization to general engagement and professional behavior.

For more on how to set an example and earn the respect of your teams, contact the management experts at Merritt.

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