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Management psychology book recommendation - managing very "tricky" people!

(13 Posts)
managementpsychologyhelp Thu 11-Oct-12 11:45:20

NC for this.

I started managing a team two years ago. I am very highly qualified and respected in my field. The team I inherited are all male and older than me. It is a profession which you could get 'stuck' in and this appears to have happened with most of this bunch. Many seem somewhat, shall we say, bitter about that.

Since I started I have tried it all - mostly just listening to them and giving them what they want (within reason). But the team change the goalposts all the time, and nothing pleases them. They pass this attitude on to our customer, which obviously doesn't have the best effect.

For example, in meetings they asked for more open communication and input. I opened more channels and give opportunity for feedback. I never hear anything back. We issue a new procedure and then weeks later I get emails asking why a certain staff member can't do things the 'normal' way i.e. pretending they just haven't heard of the new procedure/not listening/thinking it applied to others but they are entitled to be the only one not disadvantaged by it. They start rumors and blame management for not communicating clearly. They demand working conditions which are impossible in this line of business! We offer further training, funding...they complain no training/funding available (one staff member wasted a large amount of money by simply refusing the opportunity at the last minute). They have "half" information about this country's contract/employment law - many things are simply set in stone legally, nothing to do with our own procedures. But the staff complain (they, however, are very happy to work within the boundaries of contract law when is disadvantages the employee but not when it protects the employer).

We hired temporary staff to cover/augment the team for over 8 months during a busy period and things worked so smoothly! I picked this team myself and it was very strong. This team had a positive impact on the organisation as a whole. Since the team has got back to normal, the poisonous atmosphere is back. I have access to notes from the people in my position over many years (many of whom cried/left due to the team) and these issues go back years - even though the staff claim they have spotless records prior to my arrival! The staff blame me and the rest of the management team.

The rest of the management team/the directors of the company are 100% behind me. It is an incredible place to work in general - creative, fun, authentic. I want to foster this among all of the staff. Should I be the firm/authoritative boss or the friendly/casual boss?

Thank you for listening to this - ended up being a bit long! Any book recommendations/ general recommendations?

SageMist Fri 12-Oct-12 07:37:40

Are there performance issues with the teams behaviour or is it just an atmosphere? If you think that you can pin point individual behaviours, then you should manage this.

So for example, if Bob is forwarding inappropriate emails, then you could re-issue email policy, set an expectation that every one should email back to say they've read it (or sign a bit of paper). Then if anyone doesn't email/sign then that's something you can manage (get everyone round a table and read it out loud for example). Then if Bob continues to breach the email policy, then you can start to talk about applying disciplinary measures.

So set an expectation, find away of measuring and deal with poor or non-compliance.

managementpsychologyhelp Fri 12-Oct-12 13:33:31

Thank you!

There are performance/behavior issues, definitely.

We have established and reaffirmed procedures, as above. Behaviour improves for a day or so! I am accused of being petty and exercising bad management technique. There appears to be one ringleader who has quite a history - but legally the employee is protected.

PanonOlympus Fri 12-Oct-12 15:20:53

A few things strike me:
- you def need a firmer steer from your line manager. Empathy/sympathy is one thing, direct guidance and oversight is something else.
- you may be seeing the team as one entity, when it is made up of individuals. There will be schisms and disagreements amongst them, and some of them will be keen to get on with the job/their careers and are being held up/back. IS there a way to isolate the problem team members?
- encourage job opportunities outside of your team, if a tall possible.
- patience. As frustrating as it can be, there will be a few things you can do to make the situation worse. 2 years in a difficult team isn't that long tbh.
- there will be something in JDs which talk about 'facilitating harmonious work relations' - if you consider there is an issue there, raise it with them.
- ignore the criticism. You are never going to please or appease them. IF you are confident in your management techniques and you have snr management backing then don't be railroaded into 'being nice and friendly'. Direct, sustained and fair stuff will more likely lead to agreement or one or two wandering off somewhere else.


Bilbobagginstummy Fri 12-Oct-12 22:55:10

Very good advice above.

I find the Myers-Briggs thing very helpful in understanding why people behave so weirdly as they do. Gifts Differing (Isabel Briggs Myers) and Please Understand Me (II) by Kiersey are my 2 "standard recommendations".

Pin down the ring-leader, work them out using Myers Briggs and think about what you can do to get rid of them ease the problems (if anything; you may be looking at disciplinary stuff rather than moving them on).

When I was interviewing people recently, ALL the ones who said they'd had difficult colleagues to deal with described older men dinosaurs "set in their ways". It isn't easy. Good luck!

managementpsychologyhelp Sat 13-Oct-12 13:54:00

Fantastic advice, thank you - both really hit the nail on the head. I will order those books...

There is most definitely a ring-leader! We could have at least suspended him for past behavior, but we were treading on egg-shells regarding his "I know my rights" and "I'm consulting lawyers" attitude...

I have no problem ignoring the criticism! I really believe in the direction we are taking the team, so have to have the conviction to carry everything through. I think we were trying to be democratic and get everyone onside/take their POVs into account when moving forward. However, the particular team members I am talking about are not interested in moving the business forward, just their own self gain, so their 'suggestions' are not going to be helpful in the long term anyway....

PanonOlympus Sat 13-Oct-12 15:21:14

" I know my rights!"

" Yes, so do I. They are enshrined in law, and in this organisation's policies, which you should be aware of. But where exactly do those things meet with your expectation of continuing in a manner at odds with a progessive team and organisation?"

Or some such.grin

Good luck.

RandomMess Sat 13-Oct-12 15:25:22

Can I recommend a glass of very lovely wine when you get home in the evenings grin

Also write the mantra "it's not me, it's them" somewhere so you can look it and when you're having a particularly difficult day.

managementpsychologyhelp Sun 14-Oct-12 12:47:35


I love the wine idea, very much!

Sometimes I think they're just decent blokes who are trying their best to earn a living. But that's no excuse for some of the behaviour I've encountered, is it?

blueshoes Sun 14-Oct-12 13:23:07

Is your HR any use for disciplinary issues. Can you make an example of the ring leader?

That's means calling his bluff and taking him to the brink i.e. you consulting an employment lawyer as well.

I find that when people get too complacent about their jobs (that includes myself), they start to get a sense of entitlement.

A redundancy exercise (which is not great, and not one you can necessarily use) is good at shaking up a team that has got jaded. My law firm did that to secretaries - redefined their roles, cut their numbers - who prior thereto were ruling the roost, and the difference it made to their attitude was life-changing. It is easy for you to re-hire, so a few of them leaving is not such a bad thing.

If they complain so much, wouldn't the grass be greener? Consult an employment lawyer though.

DolomitesDonkey Mon 15-Oct-12 06:48:19

Tbh, 2 years is enough and it's time to deal with this in a manner with which women are often uncomfortable - i.e., show him the door.

I'm not sure which country you're in, but I'm guessing EU with labour laws which often work in favour of the employee.

I can only speak from what I know in my EU country and that is it is possible to let people go, if we want them out "fast" then there is usually a non-disclosure agreement and a large pot of money (2 time annual salary not unheard of), or the "legal" route which will need to show at least 2 annual appraisals detailing poor performance and lack of inaction to remedy these points.

So it's not impossible, but it is likely, on the surface at least, to be expensive. However, how much money has this one person (directly, or indirectly!) cost your business over the last 2/5/10 years?

I don't think you'd be doing yourself justice trying to understand him and pussyfoot around him, it's time to put your foot down and make changes.

managementpsychologyhelp Mon 15-Oct-12 11:21:01

I love your nn, dolomites!!

You are right, anyway. Foot down time.

We are small and don't have a HR department, though we did outsource a HR consultancy firm who are brilliant, and you have all mirrored their advice.

We cannot afford redundancies, and legally we cannot offer it as the roles will still very much exist.

God, the stories I could share about what some employees have been up to and their self-delusion...!

AndBingoWasHisNameOh Fri 19-Oct-12 20:57:23

Sounds like you are probably past this point but there is a book I've found helpful called dealing with people you can't stand

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