Summer of Management, Part 2: Dealing with Difficult People

I love going to trainings, and this one did not disappoint. In fact, it ended up being one of those experiences I feel like everyone should have a chance to do at least once.

Sorry, naked guy, but this class ended up being more about managing relationships with coworkers, direct reports, and supervisors than the substance-influenced kind of difficult. The instructor opened the class with a group exercise defining everyone’s goals for the day, then talked about conflict resolution, assertiveness, and how to keep conflict constructive. We took a brief personality assessment, one that was unfamiliar to me–not sure where this theory originates, but I found a writeup here. And this is from my notes:

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Based on the assessment we took, we all categorized ourselves as one of the following types:

  1. Get it right–task oriented, focused on getting things done correctly. 17% of people.
  2. Get it done–task oriented, but focused on finishing/achieving goals, even if they’re not done perfectly. 3% of people.
  3. Get appreciated–people oriented, focused on getting positive feedback. 11% of people.
  4. Get along–people oriented, focused on preserving relationships above all else. A whopping 69% of people.

Guess which one I am?

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“Get Appreciated.” Which felt sort of icky at first, like I’m part of a class of recognition seekers. Well… from what I learned, I kind of AM, but really, it’s more that I place high value on positive feedback, and will work super hard to get it.*

The next part of the workshop–this is where it gets good.

We split up into groups based on which personality type we identified with, then moved to four corners of the room to answer questions about how best to work with us–see the image above. We shared out loud, then had some time for groups to ask questions back and forth. Questions like:

“I’m a Get Appreciated, and my boss seems like a Get It Right. Can you Get It Rights tell me how I might get her to give me more positive feedback? It would really help my morale!” (Answer: show her frequent evidence of the work you’ve completed; understand that she may feel she’s communicating positive feedback by saying nothing, since many Get It Right types focus on correcting negative behavior.)

“Get Appreciated types, can I show you appreciation nonverbally? For example, if I bought you lunch after a job well done, would that feel like a reward to you, or would you rather have the words?” (Answer: we all agreed that we’d rather have the words, and might not interpret the free lunch as “positive feedback,” although we’d sure as heck eat it and say thank you.)

“I’m a Get It Done, and I need my Get Along team to complete their work faster. How can I accomplish this?” (Answer: always use the sandwich method when offering critical feedback to a Get Along. Offer the criticism in between affirmations of the employee’s value. For example, “Jim, I can see that you put a tremendous amount of care into your work, and I appreciate that! I need to ask you to complete your reports within two business days from now on. The feedback you give is very valuable, and getting it faster will allow me to incorporate it into my own work faster.”)

This was such a great exercise, and my class got really into giving each other insight into our differing personalities and work styles. One person even approached me during a break to give me additional insight into the question I’d asked, and said she’d learned more about working with her own coworkers from hearing what I had to say. It was fun and fascinating and I will use the insights from this training going forward, for sure.

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Next up in the Summer of Library Management: Leadership and Team-Building!

*I have this theory now that a high percentage of current or former children’s librarians are “Get Appreciated” types. For those who find such work rewarding (like me!), high fives-smiles-hugs-happy-faces from children and parents are just the kind of reward we like. Children’s librarians get lots of appreciation when working in public service, and giving up this part of my work day was VERY hard when I transitioned to collection management. Looking back, this framework helps me see that I lost a huge daily dose of appreciation, and since that’s my strongest motivator, of course it was hard for me to find equivalent joy in my backstage role. I’m happy to say that I did, eventually–I’ve learned to appreciate likes/kudos/happy emails from colleagues whose jobs I’ve made easier *almost* as much as high fives from babies.

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