February 5, 2018

How to manage people problems and problem people

Jim Pawlak

"Hard-Won Wisdom — True Stories from the Management Trenches" by Jathan Janove (AMACOM, $17.95).

People problems and problem people are obstacles on productivity's path. Dealing with these issues often takes an inordinate amount of a manager's time and affects staff cohesion. Based upon Janove's stories, here are two of the ways management can save time (and face) and ensure people are on the same page:

1. Use "star profiles" when selecting people for promotion. Think beyond the job description (i.e. the tasks) and focus on the core behaviors required to succeed in a position. Define success in four or five sentences for each position; your star profile should include the soft skills needed to work with others. Why? The approach to teamwork/team-building, the willingness to listen and communications style heavily influences the ability to produce results.

Janove makes this point with the story of Morris, a former military officer who excelled at his non-supervisory job. When the title of acting department supervisor was added, Morris relied on his military command-and-control background to manage his staff. Subordinates complained. Productivity and morale plummeted.

2. To end a feud, apply the "Triple Two" to deal with conflicts among employees. Rather than stepping in as a manager, which may be viewed as taking sides, encourage the parties to answer three job-context questions: 1. "What two things should I start doing? 2. "What two things should I stop doing? 3. What two things should I continue to do?"

The "Triple Two" allows the parties to discuss their answers in terms of their on-the-job interactions. More often than not, the parties will find common ground. If conflict remains, the manager must resolve it and explain the decision in terms of what the organization requires of them.

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