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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

9 Tricks That'll Make Managing Someone You Don't Like Much Easier

So, you’re just not into one of the people you supervise. It happens to almost every manager at some point in his or her career.

Some people keep a first line of defense locked in their desk drawer (think:chocolate). Others quit. Some yell. More gossip. While some of these might feel insanely productive in the moment, none are long-term solutions.

So, what should you do if a person you manage is driving you insane?

Below is a list of nine professional moves you can make when you find yourself in that very situation.

1. Consider This a Leadership Opportunity

This is not the time to rant on Facebook, Instead, step back and think of it as a chance to sharpen your leadership skills. Ask yourself: Have I made enough time for this employee? Have I clearly defined for him what “good” looks like? Have I given him feedback on what he should be working on improving? Bosses tell people what to do, but leaders take charge of a situation and find a solution.

2. Be Upfront About How You Prefer Things

Be crystal clear about where you stand on not just important matters, but also on nit-picky pet peeves. If you prefer email to in-person questions, tell her. If you’d like presentation drafts in at least a week early, say it. People can’t read minds, and it’s an easy mistake to hold someone accountable without having first set the expectation. So many managers forget to communicate these little things (that end up driving us crazy), in addition to the more pressing matters. With that said, you can’t expect anyone to accommodate all your needs.

3. Remember You’re the Boss for a Reason

I don’t mean cross your arms and wave your finger around because you’re in charge. More than likely, you’re in a management position because you have a proven success record, or have earned a shot at it. So long as this employee isn’t causing actual heart palpitations, take a breather and remember you’re in control of the situation. Don’t let her ruffle your feathers. Rather, make a deliberate plan to fix the situation and see it through.

4. Get at the Heart of the Matter

The truth can set you free. Isolate your source of frustration. If it’s performance-based, develop a plan to address the pitfalls and help him attack it to the best you can. If you still feel like you’re hand-holding or staying until 11 PM to clean up his mess, than make notes and use them when evaluating the employee at the appropriate time. And if it is interpersonal, like he wears your ex’s cologne or microwaves fish for lunch—then you’re going to have to acknowledge how silly that is and work at letting it go.

5. Find Her Strong Suit

More often than not, her work product is a reflection on you, so you’ll want to find something she can execute on well. The better her work, the better you’ll look, and the more you’ll start appreciate having her on your team. So find her strength and use it. And if you truly do not think she has one and are puzzled as to how she was hired, talk to your manager—there might be something you didn’t know or was never communicated to you. For example: Maybe you haven’t been utilizing her actual skills yet.

6. Find Common Ground

As much as it may pain you at first, try and find common ground. You must have something you can both agree on. For example, you were both drawn to the same industry and company—so start there. Then you can move on to TV shows, books, even a love of cats. The more similarities you can find, the more you’ll start seeing him as a person—and less of thorn in your side.

7. Put On a Good Face

Literally. Even if it's a poker face. You don’t need to high five every time you pass, but use a friendly wave to call her over, smile when you pass by on your way to the printer, ask how her weekend went on Monday morning. Challenge yourself to make sure this person never knows how you really feel.

8. Check Yourself

This may sound like advice for a dating column but I think it’s applicable here—there comes a point when you can’t change someone, so try changing your attitude, or perspective, rather than asking or even expecting this employee to change who he is as a person.

9. Escalate It

You’ve tried all of the above and nothing’s working. You truly don’t believe that you can manage this person for one more day. So, the next step is bringing the issue to your boss. But before you do that, make sure you have proof that it’s not personal. Document specific examples and instances first. Remember, this is someone’s career at stake, so make sure this is truly your only option.

Let’s face it: You’re bound to cross paths with folks you just don’t care for throughout your career. It’s not a reflection on you—and to be fair—it’s not always a reflection on them. It’s human nature, but we’ve got to learn to deal with it and the sooner you can develop habits and a style of management to engage and work with the less than ideal coworker, the better you’ll be for it down the road.

Photo of upset man courtesy of Shutterstock