Diagnosing Whether You Are Contributing To Bad Behavior From Problem Employees
So, given our tendency to overlook our own shortcomings, how can you figure out whether or not you are a primary cause of your own grief? How can you find out what you need to change?
First, look for patterns of behavior or reactions from others. Do people say the same things about you at home and in the workplace? That’s a dead giveaway that there is something going on. For example, if your spouse and one or two of your staff think you are hard to talk to or that you aren’t a good listener, then there’s a good chance you are hard to talk to and you could use some work on your listening skills. Here are a few other reactions from others that you might want to pay attention to:
- ? People avoid talking to you or are vague.
- ? People seem to be intimidated in your presence.
- ? People clam up when you appear.
- ? People seem defensive with you.
- ? People often get frustrated in conversations with you.
Second, look for patterns in your own behavior and reactions. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- ? Am I often distracted or inattentive?
- ? Am I often more interested in talking than listening?
- ? Do I often use my position of power as a manager to get things done (issuing orders, coercion)?
- ? Am I easily upset?
If you answer yes to some of these questions, then it’s likely that you’re contributing to the development of difficult people around you. While there’s no mortal sin involved in being distracted or talking or getting upset, it’s likely that you are conveying an irritability, impatience, and lack of interest in those around you. That turns people off. When people get turned off this way, they tend to be less cooperative over time.
Third, ask people for feedback. It’s impossible to understand how you affect people without getting them involved in helping you. Here’s how to do it.
With your employees, and in private one-to-one conversations, ask each one how you could be of more help to them in getting their jobs done. With your spouse (provided you get along well), just plain ask whether there are things about you that he or she finds difficult. (If you don’t get along, don’t ask this question.)
With your boss, ask him or her whether there is anything you should be doing that might make you a better manager or contributor to the company. Bosses really like this, so there’s an added benefit there.
Clearly, all the feedback in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t really want to hear how other people see you. That’s your choice, of course.
It’s Your Choice to Change
Let’s say you’ve figured out that, yes, you are contributing to the development of difficult people and difficult behavior in those around you. Then what? Are you doomed to misery? Are the people around you doomed, too?
No, people can change, and so can you. But should you? That’s your call. If you are tired of people reacting badly to you, then that’s good motivation to work on changing your own behavior. If you feel work is a struggle, or worse, one war after the other, perhaps you will be motivated to change.
The bottom line here is that if you see it as in your own interest to change what you do, you will do so. If you don’t see a payoff for it, you probably won’t, and I can’t make you do so. I do think it’s worth the effort, whether you are an occasional contributor to difficult situations or a chronic one.
To help you think this through, here are some benefits you may receive from becoming less difficult yourself:
- ? More productivity, fewer hassles
- ? Less stress
- ? More effectiveness on the job
- ? More respect and affection
- ? Increased job enjoyment
As a final point on changing yourself, we aren’t talking about a personality makeover here. We are talking about focusing and targeting specific behaviors you decide to change. For example, if you want to become easier to get along with, don’t commit yourself to being a nicer person. Commit yourself to being a better listener, or to involve staff more. Choose one or two limited areas to work on at one time, and try to change what you DO, not who you are.