My youngest son (pictured a VERY long time ago) asked me the other day if I could write a blog on “managing stupid people” to help him cope with an issue at work. Jack is coming to the end of his year in industry as part of his University course. He got an excellent (and very highbrow) placement but still, work relationships anywhere can be difficult.
After getting some more information from him and imparting some advice (mostly revolving around “stay out of it”), I pointed out that we usually call them “challenging” rather than “stupid”, and it is the behaviour that is challenging, rather than the person!
But it got me to thinking about what I actually knew about the subject. Of course every situation is different but what is the general advice when you work with someone whose behaviour is tricky to manage? Here are my thoughts;
1. Defuse the situation. This might mean that you need to give them time to calm down, move away or let them have some ‘time out’. A state of high tension is no place to resolve even the tiniest issue.
2. Listen to their concerns or complaints. The fact that you have listened can sometimes be all they need. Don’t judge, agree, disagree, or try to resolve the problem instantly. Be attentive and let them talk it out.
3. Be objective and try to understand their point of view. They might have a real issue that you can use to make improvements to your working practice. (I’ll admit that this one is quite hard and takes a significant amount of emotional intelligence – see earlier blog Am I Emotionally Intelligent? !)
4. Manage their expectations. When you have identified the actual issue, you might find that there isn’t an obvious resolution, it might not be something you can control, or it might be something that you will just have to agree to disagree on. Don’t forget that there is always the ‘Do nothing’ scenario. But you need to tell them that. You might like to say that you’ll keep it under review if it helps them accept it. (Note – make sure you keep it under review).
5. Help them find solutions. There is nothing more satisfying than having a problem and finding the solution yourself. Don’t take that away from them and take over. Help them towards a resolution and then give them all the credit for the work.
I’m sure that these aren’t all the tools with which to deal with colleagues who can make the workplace tricky to be part of. It is worth remembering that there is always a resolution to a problem or a way to help someone whose negativity impacts on everyone, even if, as a final straw, it is to manage them out of the organisation.
Hope that helps you Jack xx