Being a manager doesn’t mean that you have to befriend everyone who works for you. In fact, in many cases, that’s probably a bad idea. Sometimes, we’re charged with managing someone who’s annoying, obnoxious or just grates on every nerve.
How can you be a good manager when you dislike even being around one of your employees? It’s not easy, but there are some strategies to address and possibly resolve the situation, says leadership and management expert Lisa Petrilli, founder of C-Level Strategies Inc., a consultancy based near Chicago.
Here are her steps to manage people who set your teeth on edge:
Take inventory. You need to get to the root of the problem, Petrilli says. It’s one thing if the person reminds you of the kid who bullied you in third grade – that’s the kind of thing that you have to let go. But if the person is trying to undermine you, being insubordinate, or disrupting your team, then corrective action might be necessary. However, you don’t want to try to correct behavior that is really about something you don’t like, but which isn’t causing harm or is beyond the employee’s control.
“If it’s your problem and not a team problem, you have to get beyond it because it’s not fair to your employee,” Petrilli says.
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Look for the good. Constantly focusing on the employee’s boorish behavior or annoying habits is just going to exacerbate negative feelings. Instead, try to focus on the employee’s strengths and how he benefits the company, Petrilli says. Perhaps she talks too much, but that makes her an excellent salesperson. Maybe he seems surly, but his attention to detail helps the company’s accounting or quality-control mechanisms. When you accept that this person makes important contributions to the company, it can be easier to overlook their quirks.
Assess the impact. Sometimes, annoying behavior affects the team. In those cases, you may need to take action, Petrilli says. For example, it’s one thing if team members roll their eyes because Jim always tries to ingratiate himself during meetings – it’s another if Jim’s actions are prohibiting other people from giving their feedback. Check in with employees to gauge their satisfaction and ask questions without naming names. You might say something like, “How can we make our staff meetings more effective?” or “How can we get more input during staff meetings?” If dominant voices are drowning out others, you may need to make an effort to ensure everyone has a chance to speak or have a frank discussion with your employee about allowing others to contribute their ideas, she adds.
Talk about it. Good communication can solve a multitude of ills. If you’re having trouble telling whether your staffer’s clipped responses are a matter of rudeness or quirkiness, address it directly, Petrilli says. In a private setting, say something like, “When you answer me in such a short manner, it makes me feel like you’re upset about my request. Is that the case or am I misunderstanding something?” Giving the employee a chance to speak freely in a nonthreatening environment can reveal whether the things that are driving you crazy are really just a failure to communicate.