When managers get really, really fed up with a team member, they often a) explode at them in a crazy, bug-eyed, spit-spewing way or b) walk away and hide in their offices, wearing camouflage clothing and trying to blend in with a ficus.
Neither strategy works. Screaming at someone makes you look like a lunatic and everyone starts dusting off their resumes because no one wants to work for a lunatic. Hiding doesn't work either -- it just gets on the nerves of your entire team and people starting talking to the office plants in an effort to find you.
So, what's the solution when you've got a team members who bugs the crap out of you?
- Make a plan. Felicity is someone who loves to talk about her cooking. Every morning you get a complete rundown of what she cooked for dinner the night before, including each and every spice she used. She launches into her dessert menu before meetings. You see her Barefoot Contessa behavior as a way to delay getting down to work and meeting her deadlines. But when you call her in to discuss the issue, she begins telling you about her cookbook collection. You immediately get frustrated and before you know it, you lose control of the discussion. So, spend some time writing down what you want to discuss and stick to the script.
- Be specific. When you're making your notes for the conversation, don't use vague terms like, "You're always distracting others" or "You need to use your time more efficiently." Try to come up with examples, such as "Last week you talked to Brian for 30 minutes about making bread."
- Show the ripples. Just as when you throw a rock into a pond and the movement ripples outward, explain how her behavior is affecting other people. "By keeping Brian from his work for 30 minutes, you affected time he could have been working to meet deadline projects. In addition, your discussion was distracting to team members within hearing distance, so it also affected their productivity. No one wants to stay late to get work finished that could have been done without such a distraction."
- Be open about your feelings. You don't have to scream at an employee to get your point across about how such behavior makes you feel. Just state something like, "Because you have a difficult time getting right to the point and get off-topic easily, it makes me want to avoid interacting with you during the day."
- Be firm. "From now on, you need to have discussions that are non-work related during your lunch hour or after hours with other team members. If I hear you getting off topic again and distracting people, I will issue a written reprimand that will go in your personnel file."
- Invite questions. "Is there anything that I've discussed that you don't understand?"
No manager loves each and every employee. But it is an important part of a boss's job to interact personally with team members and let them know of behavior that impacts the success of others -- and their own career. Without that, bosses become part of the problem instead of the solution.
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