Managing staff – triumph or trial?

I’ve repeatedly heard an issue common to all managers, regardless of their organisation or sector. The issue faces them all and challenges them on a daily basis. I’ve heard managers’ lament that their job is basically ok, but would be better, if it wasn’t for the staff. What they are saying is that managing numbers of diverse individuals, each with their own particular traits, foibles and needs, can be a demanding, sometimes thankless and time consuming task. The managers have described some of the working styles and personalities in their workplaces that can, on a bad day, drive them crazy. What about your workplace – any that you can recognise?

Puffoons – these individuals talk a great deal about what they are doing, what they need to do next and how busy they are. They say that lots of things are on the go and every aspect of their job is getting 100% attention. Yet when push comes to shove, it’s found they are slow to do (or don’t do at all) the bits they don’t like, and focus instead on the more enjoyable areas. When deadlines loom and stalling on the less-liked tasks is no longer possible, they get into gear, but do so with high drama, noise and attention…..so everyone can share in their suffering. They haven’t quite got that there are good and bad bits with every job and doing them all is simply part of the job and not a major theatrical event.

Personal Exposures – these individuals really enjoy sharing the highs and lows of their personal lives with others….in detail…..in daily installments. The good times and bad are all broadcast and dissected, whilst they work. Their personal lives and dramas are ready topics to share – with willing or captured recipients. They don’t notice recipient’s eyes glazing over with the endless details and instalments. They haven’t learnt to discern between sharing just enough personal details to be ‘known’ and sharing simply Too Much.

Cut to the Quick’s – these individuals are conscientious, hardworking and serious about their work. They care so much about what they do and how they do it that it causes them pain. They feel responsible for the big picture, their outcomes and others’ outcomes. They fret, worry and stress about getting things done and they do, well within deadlines. They haven’t quite managed to stand back and see themselves in the bigger perspective nor to put boundaries around themselves.

Rhett Butlers – these individuals aim to get the most that they can get out of the organisation. Their benefits and gains are the primary motivation as ‘they don’t give a damm’ about colleagues, the workplace or even their job. They can use the right language – professional practice, commitment and integrity – yet their actions in the workplace suggest otherwise. They haven’t quite grasped that congruous actions and language are the better combination and receiving a salary requires particular things in return.

Paralytics – these individuals have honed their analytical skills down to a fine art. They have a wonderful way of contemplating every which way (on one hand there’s……; yet on the other hand there’s ……….; yet again, on this hand……..) but truly, just how many hands does a person need? Their analysis paralyses them. Fearful of making the wrong decision, they analyse, contemplate and keep all options open until the last possible moment – then reconsider them all again and again. They haven’t learnt to set limits on their analysis and contemplation, nor know the moments and timing, to get into gear.

Tornadoe’s – these individuals think, speak and operate at 100 kms an hour. They’re all go, all the time, across multiple fronts. They can hop from one issue to the next without losing threads and drawing breath. They’re frustrated by others’ slower processing (well, anything less than the speed of sound is a bit slow) and can exhaust those around them with their speed. They exhaust themselves in the process and sometimes struggle to keep up with their self directed modis operandi. They haven’t quite learnt to pace themselves across their priorities and conserve energy in the process.

Prima Donnas – these individuals believe themselves to be special and particularly talented and as such, don’t need or want ‘managing’, in any shape or form. They believe guidelines and constraints which apply to others shouldn’t apply to them and any attempts to tow the party line are strongly resisted. They haven’t quite grasped that the needs of the organisation are bigger than individual egos and that their enhanced view of themselves, may not be the view shared by others.

Juggling Tightrope Walkers – these individuals try to balance the demands of their working world and their personal lives. They constantly juggle conflicting and different demands within these two worlds, all the while holding firm to their core values. They work hard both at work and at leaving work behind them. They are not prepared to risk or lose important elements in their personal world, for the sake of earning a living or being a corporate player. They may get pressured by colleagues, their boss or friends for their approach. They have learnt that balance in their personal and working worlds is the ideal to strive for. They know too, that the act of getting the balance right is typically a juggling act of epic proportions.

It’s easy to point the finger at others’ working styles. It’s much harder to recognise that our own styles can also be seen as peculiar or irritating to others. Be mindful that on occasions, each one of us displays touches of the above. Managing such diversity is a real challenge and requires us to be self aware, have understanding of others’ styles and to be flexible and adaptable in our management practices.

First Published in NZBusiness April 2000

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