Does your team have an Annoying Orange? Here’s how to deal with it
(Guest post by Carol Williams)
Who’s on the team you supervise at work? Let’s see, you’ve got the one who’s always bringing in cookies to the office (yes!), the one who loves to talk about the game (cool), the one who knows how to fix the office printer when it breaks, a bunch of other people who are interesting or a little quirky in their own ways, and….oh yeah. That one guy. You know the guy.
Maybe he’s a “close talker” who also talks too much (with his mouth full) through business lunches. Maybe she constantly interrupts—yes, even you. Perhaps he’s so detail-oriented that he drags out every meeting with tiny issues. Or maybe she’s a complainer, always griping about minor problems or issues with her job and claiming to be given the worst and most difficult tasks.
Although such examples might feel ridiculous, a little far-fetched and above all quite funny when we are thinking about them, the truth is definitely less pleasant. Regardless of which type our difficult employee represents, allowing them to continue with their irritating and disturbing actions is bound to have deleterious effects on their own tasks, the work of their colleagues and supervisors ,and in extreme cases, the entire company’s performance.
How can you best handle these “Annoying Oranges” while remaining professional? After all, we generally don’t want to fire anybody just for being slightly difficult or irritating. Here are some ideas.
Step 1: Figure out if your Annoying Orange is a real problem.
Before you go in and try to “fix” your orange, consider the following:
–The problem could be you
Does this employee’s demeanor remind you of your 4th-grade bully or your know-it-all little brother? Could you harbor a prejudice towards his or her political views, personal appearance, or family background? If so, work to let go.
–Some kinds of “oranges” can actually move the company forward.
We all enjoy having very optimistic yes-men around us; the people who agree with us and support our decisions. The problem is, sometimes such coworkers may hesitate to tell us the ugly truth, or may be too similar to our own background and personalities to even notice the problems the company is facing.
On the other hand, that extremely competitive IT guy who always tries to prove he is better than the rest of the staff or that constantly complaining secretary who feels all the worst tasks are given to her might be far more open and ready to discuss the company’s problems .There’s something to be said for having people on staff who “think different.”
Step 2: Handle the problem, if it exists.
But let’s say there really are concrete issues with your Annoying Orange (for instance, sloppy or off-putting appearance, poor ability to get along with others, or a noisily bad attitude). How can you handle this professionally and effectively?
—First, let the employee know you need to discuss something that’s a bit awkward or difficult. However, refrain from doing it in front of the rest of the team. Even if your orange is an annoying one, you must never put them in a difficult position around their coworkers as this is bound to be a definite motivation killer.
—When the two of you are alone, be direct; don’t beat around the bush. After all, you are having this conversation for the benefit of the orange as well.
—List specific problem behaviors or incidents. If you don’t have specific incidents, wait for a bit and prepare a solid list. It’s much better to be able to refer to examples than to say something vague like “People have a hard time working with you.”
—Relate the problem to specific issues that it is causing for the business, team, or employee.
—Agree on some concrete ways change can occur, and follow up.
Step 3: Learn to accept some kinds of annoyances.
What if your employee improves his or her problem areas and you still find him or her annoying?
In fact, even if your sloppy Sam betters his table manners, you still may not want to be his best friend. This is okay. But if you’re still irritated by your employee:
–Work to see the good in him or her
This employee is probably adding quite a bit of value to your organization (at least, we hope so, or you wouldn’t still employ him or her). What are the positives your Annoying Orange brings to work? What can you like about him or her?
–Consider getting to know the person better
Maybe a little time getting to know the personal side of your irritating employee could help you to see them more fully as a person. If you’re brave, you could also try working closely with them on an important project—according to some studies, this might make you like each other more.
–Above all, remain professional
No matter what, don’t betray your annoyance to your employee. It certainly isn’t going to help the situation, and is more likely to exacerbate the problem.
As a boss, business owner, or supervisor, you’re entrusted with remaining neutral and professional, so don’t let your Annoying Oranges turn you into a bright red, screaming tomato. Instead, use these strategies to handle your problematic or irritating employees effectively. You may even learn a little about yourself in the process.
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