If employee conflict often makes you feel like an adult trying to manage difficult children, you’ve hit on the most effective approach for dealing with these behaviors - take charge and give these difficult adults consequences and incentives to grow up and develop adult strategies.
To read the rest of this article from the New Mexico Business Weekly, see:
How to Supervise Adults When They Act Like Children
We all recognize childhood behaviors like avoiding responsibility, empty promises and blaming; possessiveness, jealousy and constant controlling; forming catty cliques or swaggering gangs; attention seeking, disruption and resistance; insensitivity to the feelings of others; fear, dependence and helplessness; threatening to hurt themselves or embarrass us. We also label types like spoiled princes and princesses; picture-perfect little professors; martyrs, pouters, sulkers; people-pleasers; petty tyrants.
Bullies (harassers and abusers), victims and rescuers try to force others into complementary roles in their triangle. Don’t get sucked into this Bermuda triangle.
Don’t let temper tantrums - exploding in anger, withdrawing in hurt or giving a very loud “silent treatment” - control your team. Train employees not to expect bribes or rewards to keep them from acting out in public. While they’re in “time out”, continue decision-making and group process.
In adults, child-like behaviors are habitual reactions to hurt and fear - maintained by ignorance of more effective strategies. Self-protection and personal agendas become more important than co-workers or productivity.
Some general guidelines and strategies
- Effective authority depends on your willingness to replace out-of-control employees.
- Don’t try to appease these employees; their desires are infinite and unquenchable. Your job is not therapy; your job is maintaining goals, quotas, productivity and behavioral standards.
- Difficult employees hope to justify their outbursts by finding situations in which they’re wronged. Separate the child-like behavioral patterns from the content of the situation and deal with both.
- Determine who responds to an encouraging coach or mentor and under what circumstances; who responds to a firm taskmaster; who you can reach one-to-one; who responds to public exposure.
- Notice which employees seem to push every boundary you set, thwart every approach you make and blame their problems on your communication style.
Ultimately, these employees are 100% responsible for themselves. If they don’t grow-up rapidly, you can’t afford to waste your time. You’re much more productive when you’re working with “A” and “B” students eager for success, not personal victories.
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