Sunday, May 26, 2013

Work Life: Working with a Difficult Person (Take 6 of infinite)

No matter where I work or which client's I go to, there always seem to be a difficult person we have to deal with. There are all sorts of difficult people, so I do not have a simple method on how to deal with each different kind. What I have learned is that covering their short-comings by doing their work is not a good long-term solution. Instead, I focused on how I can change myself more effectively.

The more I covered for other people, the more management thinks that things are going well even if I have reported such pain-points. This has two outcomes. They do not hire more people thus leaving the rest of us stressed. With smaller companies, this slowed growth. The other is that they continue to hire other poor options which compounds the original problem. The pain-point is even more difficult when your boss is also a difficult person because a lot of time is spent to explain things on their behalf.

At some point, I realized that I have put myself into the cruel cycle. So, I started to refocus on my responsibilities and started to delegate work properly. Unfortunately, I had to learn to put up with management complaints that things are not getting done, starting saying no, and leaving things tasks alone not within my responsibilities. Because of these changes, I began to be manage my work better and manage my bosses better.

One key change was the way I kept my notes. My notes began to be more prioritized with tasks and amount of time spent on these tasks. The reason is because I had to start saying no to requests. I do this by explaining the tasks I had to do. Most times the requester will realize that their request is not a high priority. With bosses, they may re-prioritize my work. The other is to have my list of responsibilities at hand. Although odd why my boss wouldn't know what those are, the list has been very useful. I had to be prepared to explain why I should not be a candidate for the task. By having the list available, I am prepared if someone tries to reword what they are. Lastly, I also keep a list of tasks that were not part of my responsibilities. This list is when managers from other departments or higher up the ladder complains about the lack of attention. This helps my bosses have the needed information to explain why certain tasks are delayed. In most cases, this information will also discover process gaps with other groups.

Sadly, this does not quite get things done quickly nor does this change difficult people. This change focuses on redirecting attention to other people (hopefully, the proper resources). I have tried many other strategies but none seems to impact anyone. I have found that difficult people cannot be easily removed from the team because there is a reason they are there so is not worth pursuing like tracking what they do or do not do.

Although these practices are a bit political, it is still important to connect with other good people. This helps in many levels in that they will also be more willing to assist me [I was surprised on how many "processes" have been created just to avoid certain people]. Good employees are hard to come by but people recognize them. They may be future people you want to hire when you have such opportunity or need recommendations.
On top of all that, discretion is still required. Because I trust my bosses and I have always wanted to be a good proponent to the team, I am not afraid to push-back and make my statements. But I still keep a contingency for each time I push-back. I am always prepared to be looking for new work. My current team is the best thus far in my career, so there may be some leniency in the extra work. If my employment was important to me, I may do more of the extra work. If I had more control or a clear vision that my extra work will help the group grow, I will also do extra work. Until then, I will do what I am hired to do because it is currently the best for the team with an eye out for any changes in management.

Related Links:
Difficult person who doesn't live up to their potential - Star Trek (TNG) - Hollow Pursuits
- Started watching TNG. This episode inspired this post.