The workplace is similar to the community surrounding us because of the array of personalities we encounter. We naturally find some people easier to connect with, while we find others difficult to endure. And – no surprise – these personalities rub us the same way at work.
Every office has one of these “interesting” personalities amongst its staff. For example, many have the “not-me” person: accountable for nothing and responsible for not even themselves. Worst of all, they’re afraid of failure. There are the “methane” personalities, who lie, cheat and pollute surrounding environments with their toxic behavior, mining the workplace for great ideas to claim as their own. Likewise, the “maniacal” people act as the hammer while every poor soul around them is a nail. They hurt others’ self-esteem to boost their own. And, of course, most of us have met the “lame-o” person, who shrinks in the background, never forming an original opinion or arguing to be heard.
As a boss, it’s your job and privilege to find the hidden treasures in everyone with whom you work. Sometimes, the treasure is buried deep (really deep) and takes longer to find. Like anything in life that’s worthwhile, it takes work. Healthy, creative relationships are no different.
Developing a relationship between boss and employee is a lot about attitude – it’s about you, as a boss, genuinely caring about the people you work with. You can fake an attitude and people may buy your management style for a while, or you can build relationships founded on trust by getting to know these people – and gaining loyalty in the process. Often, we don’t know what’s going on in someone’s personal life that may be impacting his behavior at the office, so we should give people the benefit of the doubt. However, that’s not a pass for bad behavior. Instead, try to determine what’s driving the behavior. Almost always, there’s some story that happened “yesterday” that contributes to how people behave today. Sure, it takes digging to figure out what it is, but when people realize you’re legitimately interested and willing to listen, a relationship based on reciprocal trust can evolve. If you have trust and respect, you can work with anyone.
With so many different creative personalities in the workplace, as a leader you must be flexible. Face it — no one likes to work with someone who is as fixed as cement. We’ve all been on a team where we dread working with one specific person because of his or her personality. Whether the person is complaining and putting the proverbial kibosh on everything, or is so peppy and upbeat that even Mary Poppins would be disgusted, we have no choice but to deal with him or her. You never want to be the reason why someone’s face falls when they find out they’ll be working with you. Being flexible is not only a key part of leadership, but a key part of life. Things tend to flow more smoothly when you ride with the current rather than fight it. Bad information delivered the right way will get you further than good information delivered the wrong way. It’s important to understand different personalities and deliver information in a way that is most meaningful to people. That often means putting aside the way you like things done, and instead doing them the way others like them. Success comes with sacrifices and, as a leader, you must sacrifice for the good of the business.
Good leaders handling creative personalities need to remember to:
Discover the talents in people, to see the best that someone can be, and bring that side of him or her to the surface. When you can support someone and give that person an environment where hard work pays off, you’ll be amazed at what he or she can deliver. “Not-Me Lee” is capable of more than either one of you think.
Dig below the surface. What’s manifesting itself today didn’t start today. Build trust with your staff – even the most “interesting” – so you can understand and improve the dynamics in your office.
Remain flexible. As a leader, it’s easy to think that our way is the best way. In reality, your personality is just one of several in the office. The golden rule extols you to treat others as you’d want to be treated, but you should really treat them the way they want to be treated.
Originally published Apr 5, 2012 2:00:03 AM, updated July 28 2017