In a perfect world, our jobs are easy. Employees skip into the office on day one knowing exactly what to do and how to do it perfectly, and mangers earn the love and respect of their teams simply by showing up and smiling. Teams are easy to manage; they all respond to the same rewards and pressures, and the coaching tips that motivate Employee X also work for Employee Y. And of course, X and Y get along beautifully and work together in perfect harmony every single day.
But in the real world, things don’t always fall into place so easily. Employees respond to very different coaching styles, and they don’t always get along. Sometimes, the gestures that support one actually undermine another. So what’s a manager to do? Here are few simple guidelines for managing diverse personalities.
There are no simple answers.
Keep in mind that great managers never really “get it all figured out”. There are no secret keys to successful motivation and training. If you find a secret key, recognize that your key only applies to one person—or personality type—and as soon as the next one appears, you’ll be back to square one. Stay humble and flexible, and be ready to disregard what you’ve learned when your circumstances change.
This simple rule applies to a multitude of management scenarios. If your employee appears to be squaring off with you, misunderstanding you, not following your directions, or willfully creating problems for you and your team, back up. Something is wrong, and escalating the conflict won’t help. Listen and strive to understand what’s happening on the employee’s side of the table. A small amount of patience and empathy on your part can go a long way.
Personalities don’t change, but behaviors do.
If an employee happens to be a narcissist, or excessively shy, or a terrible listener, you can’t change any of those things. And dismissing all employees who fall short of personal perfection will leave you with an empty office pretty quick. Don’t attempt to change core personalities; instead, attempt to understand and work with them as they are. Unlike personalities, behavior and words can be modified. Start there, and work toward an achievable goal: employees who get along well enough to get the job done (without compromising their mental health).
Draw the line when necessary.
Again, you can’t regulate personalities, but you can—and should—recognize and regulate appropriate behavior. A bully will always be a bully, but bullying behavior in the workplace should mean firm disciplinary action and eventual termination. A shy employee will always be shy, but if public speaking is essential to the job, make sure your shy employee gets the coaching, training, and/or eventual transfer that he needs.
Learn more about the coaching and management of the unique personalities that populate your office; turn to the Cleveland County staffing experts at PSU.