ASK YOUR CAREER COACH: How To Handle Manager Blues

Q. I am an HR manager of a 300-strong service company. I have two managers in our organization who have been at loggerheads with each other for several years now. One reports to the other who heads the production department. The more senior person is set in his ways of managing and believes that his subordinates should follow him without question. The younger manager is an argumentative type who keeps on questioning the senior manager’s decisions. I have conducted several face-to-face conflict resolution meetings with them but to no avail. They still hate each other’s guts. What should I do?

A. According to Dr. Taylor Hartman, every child is born with a unique set of personality traits and that each personality is complete at conception and comes in the soul of every child. Dr. Hartman is the author of “The Color Code,” the bestselling book that provides an easy-to-remember framework for typing personalities according to colors. He classifies personalities into four major categories of blue, red, white and yellow. Red personalities love being in positions of influence or power and are usually controlling. Blues want to be close to other people and to always do the right thing. Whites are peacemakers and do not want conflict. Yellows are social butterflies who want to be the life of the party.

Dr. Hartman further expounds that a personality type would have inherent compatibilities and conflicts with other personality types. For example, he states that red and yellow personalities have complimentary similarities, red and white would be complimentary opposites, yellow and white would be comfortable opposites, and red and blue would be uncomplimentary opposites.

My guess is that your two managers have clashing personality types. The senior manager seems to be a red personality while the younger manager appears to be a blue personality. This combination would really result in fireworks.

That said, what can you now do? Well, the bad news is Dr. Hartman says personalities are unchangeable. The good news though is that behavior can be changed. While a personality makes an individual tend to behave in a certain way, an individual has control of his or her behavior or how he or she chooses to act in a certain situation. This is because a human being has intellect and free will.

This means that you can do something in motivating them to change their behavior at work so that their personality differences will not affect the productivity of their work team and will contribute to improving team performance. You may not be able to stop them from hating each others guts but with enough “carrot and stick” techniques, you can stop them from disrupting work and may even be able to turn their non-productive tension into a creative one.

The first thing to do is to enable them to look at themselves and be aware of their personalities and its strengths and weaknesses. Second, help them find ways to adjust their behaviors to better connect with each other. Point out the negative consequences of their continuing with non-productive quarrels and the positive results if they are able to adjust their behavior. I think individual counseling is best in this case. Having them confront each other face to face may just aggravate the situation.

Q. I am a supervisor in a marketing firm. I have been a supervisor for more than five years but I am still puzzled about the behavior of my staff. I have four people reporting to me, all of them in their mid-twenties. Three of them have worked with the company for less than a year; one has been working for me for around two years. My problem is that they are often tardy and absent at work.

A. When an employee starts getting in late and being absent frequently, that is a red light that should warn you that he or she is demotivated at work. There are many reasons why an employee becomes motivated at work.

I would not want to generalize, but many young educated people joining the workforce not only want a hefty paycheck but desire to have challenging work as well. In addition, they expect to move up and move forward much faster than the previous generations did. In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too. Well, in these ultra modern times, that is now possible and may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Since we are now in a “knowledge” economy, talented and skilled individuals have many career options. They can find a higher paying salary, more exciting work and rise up the corporate ladder at a much faster pace than their predecessors. If they can’t find these things in their present company, they will look for it elsewhere. This has given rise to the increase in “job-hoppers.

As a supervisor/manager who wants to attract and keep talent within your unit (the more talented people you have, the more capable you become in achieving your targets), what can you do, short of upping the paycheck every so often?

My view is the “pat on the back” weighs more than the “cash in pocket.” What do talented people really crave for? It is recognition. Nothing motivates better than being recognized for a job well done. Praise fuels the energy of high performing individuals.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in Management Systems Asia, September 2009 issue.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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