Ask any manager what the hardest part of their job is and she or he will probably tell you: It’s managing the personalities and the interpersonal conflicts of their team.
That’s why managers – especially new ones – need training. It’s not enough to hand them an employee handbook and wish them good luck. Every manager needs to be prepared to navigate the complexities and pitfalls of workplace relationships.
I cover this extensively in my management training programs. Here are just a few of the topics I cover:
- Good ways to deliver bad news. The more difficult the news is, the more in-person you need to be. Use email sparingly in these situations. Stop by a person’s desk, which is better than pulling someone into your office. That tactic makes a person feel like they’ve been called to the principal’s office.
- Where to sit in meetings. A chair near the middle of the table is considered an “influential spot”. If you have an enemy in the room, don’t sit across the table or far away from them. Instead, sit next to them. It’s harder to confront someone sitting that close to you. And it positions you as a potential ally.
- Defusing tattletales. Whenever possible, invite the person being tattled on into the conversation. That gets the issues out in the open and facilitates a resolution. It also sets an example for your team on the importance of being transparent and facing conflicts head-on.
- Inappropriate comments or jokes. Here’s another case where leading by example is golden. If you act with civility, so will others. If negative language or offensive comments do come up, avoid scolding. Better to take a neutral tone and explain some of the personal and professional risks involved.
- Taking sides. Suppose someone you manage complains to you about an increase in the company’s healthcare costs. It might feel like the right thing to do is convey sympathy by agreeing. Don’t! You have more influence than you realize. You need to be aligned with company goals and values. If you don’t trust the company, why should anyone else?
Before you act …
If you’re a manager who would like to advance your career and enhance your image, invest in yourself.
- Take management training courses offered through work, professional associations or adult education programs. My self-learning courses are a convenient way to sharpen your communication skills.
- Model your management style on a best-in-class pro, such as an individual who ranks high in employee engagement surveys.
- Perfect your people skills through face-to-face personal coaching.
Leaders who effectively manage office politics build strong, productive and loyal teams. They develop a reputation as a confident and in-control manager. They quickly become admired by both their staff and those in the C suite.