Tips to Handle Difficult Situation Effectively 

One of your subordinates is a highly skilled man, who knows he can get another job for the asking and would be hard to replace. He has been taking advantage of the situation- coming in late, giving you arguments instead of cooperation, and even, you suspect, talking slightly of you to other employees. Learn tips and tricks to handle difficult situation effectively. Should you:

  1. Recommend his discharge.
  2. Close your eyes and hope for the best.
  3. Appeal to his team spirit.
  4. Warn him to get on the ball or he will have to go.
  5. Try to find out what’s bothering him.
  6. Try another alternative.

Two of the alternatives above should be used in sequence. Start with (e); try to find out whether he’s being annoyed, frustrated, or troubled by something in the job situation. Eventually you might have to apply (d) if your efforts to win his cooperation fail. Not only is his recalcitrance lessening his value to you as an employee, but such undisciplined behaviour is likely to affect the morale of your entire workgroup. It goes without saying that early in the game it would be advisable for you to make plans for getting a replacement should this become suddenly necessary.

Handling Office Pilferage

Sums of petty cash and small stores of postage stamps begin disappearing from your desk drawer. Should you:

  1. Change the locks and let it go at that.
  2. Call your group together and issue a mild warning.
  3. Keep a weather-eye open, snoop around, and try to catch the thief.
  4. Try to figure out who the prime suspects are and give them individual, clear warning.
  5. Try a fifth alternative.

Definitely avoid (d). Problems of petty pilferage are difficult to handle because in one respect, they’re acceptable. There probably isn’t an executive who hasn’t taken a handful of clips or a few sheets of graph paper home to his kids. But once you get out of this relatively small and unimportant pilferage area, it’s important to act because the problem may mushroom. In this case, start with alternative (b) above.

Let your people know that there is a problem. Try to get their cooperation to stop it. Certainly, go in for new locks and any other move that will eliminate temptation. Finally, if a thief is caught, it’s probably wise to turn him and his fate over to Personnel, since pilferage tends to be a company-wide problem and undoubtedly your Personnel Department has a policy on how to handle it. Needless to say, you must have a foolproof case before pointing an accusing finger.

Handling Complaint of a Noisy Employee

It may be a youngster who whistles—gratingly. Or it may be a would-be drummer who practices on a file cabinet. A variety of noisy habits may draw protests from other employees who feel put-upon. It’s a thorny problem because you have to tell the nuisance he is one, without hurting his feelings over something that is essentially trivial. These steps can bring both quiet and peace with honor:

1. Don’t be trigger-happy

Be sure that the noisemaker is a nuisance before you act. If the whistling or other habit does not upset anybody, there’s no reason to clamp down. You’ve got a problem only if the habit upsets others. But if the complaints begin coming in-

2. Blow the whistle.

You can break it to the noisemaker gently: “Tom, would you mind killing the canary? Not that there’s anything wrong with your whistling, but it is out of place here. . . .” The light approach is best because the situation is not serious, but make it clear that you mean business.

3. Try to head off a feud.

It’s natural enough for the nuisance to resent the complaint. Usually, there is no point in telling him who complained unless you are sure there will be no ill-feeling. Best bet: make it seem like your own idea.

4. Make it stick.

Once you’ve served notice on the noisemaker, your job is usually finished. But sometimes it takes repeated warning, even the promise of disciplinary action. This, of course, should be in proportion to the misdemeanor—usually mild.

5. “Gag up” the penalties.

One executive solved this problem by levying a nickel fine at each infraction after the warning. You may adopt this approach or devise some other kind of penalty that puts the situation in proper perspective.

B.O Complaint can be TNT

“Mr. Jones, I hate to bring up this matter, but that new girl works right next to me, and she has such a bad case of body odour, I can hardly stand it….” From time to time, executives get a complaint about the appearance, behaviour or other aspects of an employee from a co-worker. The culprit may be accused of smoking a smelly pipe, or using too much perfume. Whatever lies at the heart of the complaint, you’re faced with a delicate problem. Consider the “bad breath” problem. Contrary to the message of a TV commercial for a well-known mouthwash, the problem can’t be handled by leaving the anti-bad-breath product on the offender’s desk.

Even less realistic is the expectation that the offender will welcome the attempted assist. You’re in a highly booby-trapped situation. One wrong move and the whole works will blow up in your face. The problem is usually intensified by the urgency of the complaint. As in the case mentioned above, Susie says, “I just can’t stand it anymore.” And the fact is, the complaining employee may come to you under the pressure of strong upset—further complicating your situation. Don’t minimize the difficulties of handling this type of situation. Then, consider these suggestions to help you think through the difficulties:

1. Check the charges

There’s always the chance that the complaining employee is distorting the facts. This may come about either because of hostility towards the other employee, or an exaggerated reaction. For example, an employee may come to you and say, “I just can’t stand the outrageous dress the new girl is wearing. It’s okay for hippie-land but it’s out of place in an office like ours—and it bugs me terribly.” On checking, you may find that while the new girl is wearing an unorthodox costume, it’s within acceptable limits. Then the problem is to calm down the complainant and gently persuade her that her feelings are somewhat exaggerated. For example, you may point out that she’s the only one registering the adverse reaction.

2. Figure out the course of least trauma

Once you verify the situation and feel action must be taken, your immediate objective is to act in a way that will stir up minimum fuss. Don’t underestimate the sensibilities of the individual involved. Even the best-natured person will resent being told of his personal deficiencies. It’s not easy for anyone to accept the fact that he or she is guilty of unknowingly offending others. Consider then that you may not be the best person to broach the subject. As a matter of fact, you may seriously want to-

3. Let someone speak for you.

Executives in the past have discovered that their most effective approach is through a mature individual from the group. For example, in handling the body odour problem, an executive went to one of the motherly and discreet people in the department and explained the problem to her. She agreed to talk to the offender in an informal heart-to-heart chat. Another possibility: a good friend of the offender may also be an effective intermediary. In any case, the person who conveys the message must do it without any suspicion that you have initiated the action.

4. Avoid going through channels.

One executive thought he was taking the easy way out. He got the head of the Personnel Department to agree to talk to an engineer who was the source of trouble, in this case an overly free use of obscene language. The interview seemed to go fine. The technician listened while the Personnel manager delivered a well-reasoned lecture on the undesirability of obscene language in the hearing of the people who couldn’t take it. The executive complimented himself on his perspicacity. But the employee failed to show up the next day, or any other day thereafter. Once Personnel had gotten into the act, he felt a “big thing” had been made of it—and his resentment registered in the form of a quit.

5. When the problem can’t be eliminated.

All that has been said up to this point suggests that your subordinate can eliminate the complained-of problem. For example, if it’s something like body odour, bad breath, and so on—it’s been assumed that intelligent use of soap, deodorants, mouthwashes, and so on, will successfully erase the fault. But some difficulties in this category aren’t easily dealt with. Where the difficulty can’t be eliminated, you may have to think of making changes. One manager, for example, gave an employee of excessively sloppy personal habits a workstation next to an employee with whom he spent a lot of time outside.

Or, a person whose appearance upset one employee was given an assignment in which she worked next to an individual with much less sensitivity to this particular attribute. One aspect of the problem may mean it will be coming your way more often. We live in changing times with values and attitudes undergoing revolution. For example, language that might only be whispered in privacy is now trumpeted to mixed audiences from stage and screen. Accordingly, you may be getting complaints from traditional-minded older employees who find some aspects of the “new behaviour” difficult to take. In a sense, what you’ll be asked to do then is to help bridge the generation gap. You may have to work on both the “accused” and the “accuser” to get them to compromise a little.

Improving Your Own Effectiveness

The performance of the executive is a crucial factor in the work scene. The effect of the efficient, result-getting man is multiplied many times through the consequent activities of his subordinates. Another way of conveying the same fact: a 10% improvement in the efficiency of an executive can boost the performance of his department, division, or company, 20%, 30%, or 40%. Improvement depends not only on doing things “better.” Also involved is the long-range development of personal and professional skills and management capabilities. For the career-minded executive, especially, self-improvement is the order of the day. The ideas in this section can make you more effective in your job, and can speed up career progress and development.

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