You’re a morning person, your partner is a night owl. He prefers fried foods, you like everything baked. He’s fine being too warm, but you’d rather be too cold.
In personal relationships, minor disagreements can be overlooked.
But differences on the job can drive good managers bananas.
Most managers have at some point come to the realization that they’re never going to change that one employee they clash with. It’s frustrating – but you have to live with it.
So before you Google a good workplace relationships counselor, try these techniques to put you and your “opposite” employee on the same page.
You’re Detail-Oriented; Your Employee Isn’t
When you ask for an update on a project, you expect a run-down of what’s completed, what’s pending and any problems. But your employee responds with “it’s going good, halfway done, no problems yet.”
Your employee may not know where you’re going with your request, so he gives you the least amount of info possible so as not to incriminate himself. Or, he genuinely doesn’t know how much detail you want.
The best way to get details out of a non-detail-oriented employee is to specifically ask for numbers you desire. Provide a small outline, with the details you are seeking: “I’d like to know where you are so far in these categories, and where you are with these numbers.”
This way, your employee will know you expect more details than he’s inclined to give.
You’re A Self-Starter; Your Employee Is A Procrastinator
As soon as a new project or task hits your desk, you’re on it. Jumping right in assures you’ll get everything done, and ahead of schedule!
So why can’t everyone work like that?
Some employees procrastinate and sit on the tasks they’re given because they’re trying to decide the best approach or aren’t sure where to begin.
This “opposite” trait can cause managers angst because it obviously affects how work gets done. But it’s important that managers resist projecting their own work style onto employees, and instead cultivate how to use this to an advantage.
If you know your employee works best under self-imposed pressure, use gentle prodding to get him started. Provide a rundown of what’s expected to get done and be clear about necessary timelines.
Also give the employee as much information he needs to get started: “Here are a few examples of how we approached this proposal in the past; maybe they can trigger ideas.”
Then, back off. Allow the employee to work at his own pace, but encourage him to keep you apprised of his progress. He’ll be relieved knowing you’re giving him some flexibility, but still trust he’ll get the job done.
Your employee shares everything; you’re more private
When you ask an employee, “How was your day?” you might be genuinely interested in your employee, but you usually don’t expect a tedious recital of every single event and interaction.
But good managers respect employees as people, not robots who do their bidding. So they’re responsive when an employee mentions a recent vacation, a family member’s illness, or grief about how their car just died on the ride to work.
Even if you wouldn’t share what you consider personal or private info, you might have to hear it once in a while. The best maneuver for these opposites is to (very gently) interrupt.
At the first pause, offer concern, sympathy or interest. Reiterate a point made so the employee knows you’re not just nodding: I’d heard good things about the cruise you mentioned; it’s too bad you had a disappointing experience.
Most of the time, this lets the sharer know you’ve been listening and will prompt them to wrap it up.
Your employee is hyper-energetic; you’re more laid-back
It’s an employee trait often exaggerated for comedic benefit: The tired, stressed boss who’s challenged just to keep up with the high-level, go-getter energy of an employee.
But it’s often true: What do you do when an employee is bouncing from one directive to another with speed worthy of the Road Runner?
Obviously, good managers appreciate employees with energy and drive. But if you’re more laid-back than your employee, it can be exhausting just trying to keep up with them!
These are employees you should consider yourself lucky to have, even if they do try your patience.
The best approach to these opposites is to ensure they’re never bored. If a full plate motivates them, then make sure they have a relatively steady stack of assignments so they’re not hounding you for something else to do.
Your employee is quiet; you’re a talker
I’ve encountered this a few times, and it can be uncomfortable. I’m more of a chatty Cathy when showing new employees the ropes.
Most managers naturally want to project a sense of excitement and positivity about the job and hope it catches on with their new hires.
But when you can’t get much more than a nod from your employee, it can be disheartening and a little off-putting. How am I going to teach this person anything if I can’t even get a reaction from her?
The best move is to give the quiet ones more time to get comfortable with both you as the boss and their surroundings. Just because they’re not blabbermouths doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate your help and aren’t taking in what you’re saying.
Give these “opposites” prompts to show you they’re understanding what you need them to understand.
Avoid rambling or going off-point too much when explaining things, and offer a gentle nudge to get them to open up: I’ve explained a lot of the project background to you, but do you have any questions for me before we continue?
And if they’re still tight-lipped even after time, you just have to accept that bubbliness isn’t their style. Don’t mistake their silence for disinterest, and make sure that when they do speak up, you’re giving them appropriate attention.
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