How to Manage 4 Challenging Employee Personalities

These tips will help you whip your staff into shape and make it more productive.
fingers- different-personalities
Employees can reach their full potential when they are managed based on their individual personalities. (Photo: Mukhina Viktoriia/Shutterstock)

Tailoring the way you manage employees to match their individual personalities will help your team – and your business – reach its full potential.

Andrew Schulman, who owns the business consulting group AES Consults, provides small businesses with management coaching and operational support. Here are some of his tips for managing four common personality types you’re likely to encounter on your staff:

1. Sweet but sloppy
A “sweet but sloppy” employee is well­-meaning and dedicated, but just can’t get the job done right. She unintentionally fails to follow protocols, either forgetting that a procedure already exists or developing her own way of doing things. Her friendly, light­-hearted demeanor wins over coworkers and customers alike, but she slows down productivity by making mistakes and causing chaos behind the scenes.

Managerial tactic: Schulman recommends that employers provide a “sweet but sloppy” worker with a “consistent management presence with timely reminders, direct communication and constant mindfulness of performance thresholds and responsibilities.”

With regular attention from a manager, this personality will be less likely to forget protocols. Managers should take care not to become personally offended by sloppy mistakes; rather, they should provide direct feedback on a regular basis in order to improve performance down the road.

2. The pro
With a stellar resume, glowing references and years of experience, “the pro” easily fit into your team. Now that he’s got the lay of the land, this industry veteran is trying to run the show, but that’s not part of your business plan. Even worse, he acts like a know-it-all, ignoring feedback and criticizing the core framework of your business.

Managerial tactic: Managers need to reel in the dominating nature of “the pro” without doing too much damage to his ego.

Schulman suggests addressing this swiftly and directly.

“Let them know you appreciate their experience, but there’s already a system in place. It’s your concept, and anyone who is going to contribute successfully will have to function within that framework,” he says.

Once he understands who’s in charge and how the system works, “the pro” can use his expertise in a way that benefits your business.

3. The weasel
Whenever there’s a customer complaint, a conflict among staff, misplaced files or missing products, “the weasel” is somehow involved. Even if she’s not directly responsible for every disruption, “the weasel” can’t seem to stay out of trouble. However, this person was hired for good reasons – maybe she has a unique skill set that could be an asset to your business, if she could focus on producing good work, not creating drama.

Managerial tactic: Schulman, who has dealt with many “weasels” in the hospitality
industry, knows that immediate and direct communication is required to manage this personality type.

Show her that you will not be intimidated, and let her know this behavior will not be tolerated. Her inability to stay out of trouble may stem from a desire for recognition or attention. Remind her that you promote people who keep the business functioning smoothly, not people who throw a wrench in the works. Then, start documenting her misbehaviors. If she continues to treat you like a doormat, show her the door.

“It’s generally best to cut your losses early and decisively, especially because your staff will already know who this person is and they’ll be watching how you react,” he says.

4. The defensive
Everyone makes mistakes and requires feedback at work. But when you gently approach “the defensive” personality type, he acts like it’s the end of the world.

He gets upset, creating an awkward situation and diverting the conversation away from constructive criticism. Managers are left confused as to how they can communicate with this employee without letting their intended message get lost in an emotional shuffle.

Managerial tactic: Schulman says it’s easy for managers to fall into the trap of
overanalyzing “the defensive” personality. However, you’re an employer, not a therapist, and “it’s an unreasonable expectation that you can get to the core of a willing but challenged employee’s psyche,” Schuman says.

Instead, open up dialogue and build trust. Remind “the defensive” employee that you’re interested in helping him grow, not tearing him down. Then, follow through with praise once the employee has corrected his behavior. If his confidence grows, he will find it easier to receive criticism in the future.

“It’s not foolproof, but it’s worth the effort for their loyalty and competency.”

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