With a crazy mix of personalities, worldviews, habits and motivations, you're bound to bump into someone you can't stand in the office. Since you're working together, though, you won't be able to avoid each other. So how can you cope?
There is no cookie-cutter way of determining people’s personalities. You can only gain this insight by spending time with them, paying close attention to their habits, and asking them about their aspirations and preferences.
Here are some key considerations.
The amount and type of structure that an employee has in their day-to-day work is one of the biggest considerations for managers. The scale ranges from those who want no guidance at all to those who enjoy being micro-managed (though most fall closer to the centre of the spectrum).
Workers who are independent, responsible and good at managing their time usually don’t appreciate a lot of top-down structure and rigidness, since they cannot produce their best work at the optimal time. They thrive in a position and work environment that are in constant flux and tend not to appreciate rigid deadlines, though they do hold goals in high regard.
Employees at the other extreme prefer to have every half-hour mapped out to make sure they stay on schedule. Leaving them to their own devices would result in anxiety, time wastage and ineffective prioritisation. They want stability, clear expectations and deadlines.
Some people love to be in charge. Although they aren’t managers, they want complete ownership over their projects, are happy to delegate work, enjoy following up with contacts and want a big stake in making decisions. They're also usually willing to take the pressure this entails. These “leaders” chafe under too many rules, structures and layers of authority.
The contrast to this is those employees who don’t want to be responsible for anything at all, and don’t enjoy making decisions. These meeker types become anxious when they must take the blame (or credit) for a choice that they made, and are quite happy to be followers who get on with the work assigned to them from above.
People can be driven by money, power, recognition, status, desire for approval or simply sheer enthusiasm for the work. Some people simply want to get by and earn a comfortable salary, while others are driven to achieve ever more through hard work or strategic thinking.
Few people are driven purely by the desire for more money – once they earn a comfortable living, other factors such as job satisfaction and acknowledgement take precedence.
A good manager will discover what a person enjoys doing and what goals they strive for, and will seek a way to integrate these two elements.
Managing a group of people will bring up a whole new set of challenges. Some employees are outgoing “people persons” – confident, friendly, open and social. They can overpower meeker team members and always have something to say. Their contributions are valuable, but be sure to keep them in check so they don’t drown out all other voices.
Other employees are shy, reluctant, introverted and private. Since there is no way to completely eliminate team or interpersonal work, these employees should feel that they are accepted into the group even if they do not contribute as loudly or as often as others. But be careful not to put them on the spot (for example, don't ask them to deliver a presentation to a big group).
Finally, consider how the team members handle conflict and stress.
Some may handle criticism, mistakes and disagreements well, without taking anything personally or feeling attacked. Others are more sensitive and may feel defensive or offended if they are called out or challenged.
Handle conflict and problems with sensitivity and always remember that people have faults and make mistakes; it’s only human.
The part-time University of Cape Town Effective People Management short course is presented online throughout South Africa and starts on 28 September 2011. Contact Kerry on 021 447 7565 or email@example.com, or visit www.getsmarter.co.za for more information.
Have you ever worked with someone you can't STAND to talk to? Share your tips for dealing with the situation below.