Personality clashes are common, but when one employee doesn’t seem to fit it’s a tough job to fix the problem. If their work performance is meeting requirements it can seem like there is nothing to do but hope the problem solves itself. However, delaying a response can be a serious mistake.
“Most leaders get wary of confronting the individual because on the surface it doesn't appear to be a performance problem. In reality that is exactly what it is,” HR consultant and coach Carlann Fergusson says. “When the behaviour of the individual is causing others to avoid working with him/her it does affect everyone’s performance.”
In a workplace that requires cooperation and teamwork, these kinds of conflicts affect efficiency and – even when the person in question works independently – the issue could be affecting client and colleague relationships. Fergusson suggests the key for business owners is to help their employee see it as a problem that they must correct to be successful.
She suggests taking the following steps:
- Describe the behaviour and its consequences: Try not to label behaviour, or suggest intent when describing it. Instead of saying "Your arrogance is causing people to avoid working with you" try saying "when you respond to people on the phone or in person your words and tone are being interpreted as arrogant. This may not be your intent but the result is people avoid working with you."
- Get the employee to own the problem: Ask the individual what they think the consequences of their behaviour and the perceptions are to the workgroup, the customers, to you, to the company. Ask "What do you think happens when people perceive you in this way?" and don't answer it for them. The employee needs to own the problem. You want the employee to understand that he or she owns solving the problem.
- Offer help but be careful not to solve the problem for them: Your team member may not know what exactly is causing the problem, so it’s important to help them understand the exact behaviours that are problematic. You can offer coaching and training but it is not your role to come up with a solution. Ask them what specifically they can do to change the behaviour and improve the perceptions.
- Make certain the employee understands the urgency required: Ask them what they think will happen if they don't correct the behaviour. Ensure they fully understand that if it isn't corrected it will affect their performance rating and may lead to termination. You are not threatening them with this – just getting them to acknowledge the severity of the issue.
It may also be necessary to coach co-workers in modelling professional behaviour to avoid the eye-rolling and harmful gossip that can become a de-motivating part of team culture.
Running your own business isn’t easy. It’s a job that often requires tact and the ability to suppress embarrassment. So what can be done when one of your team's personalities is affecting team morale and engagement?