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Dealing with the challenges of people management

Our lives would be a lot easier if the people working with us had some or all of the following qualifications: a positive attitude, skills and knowledge that match the job, a good fit with the company's values, ambition, initiative, willingness to work hard, ability to communicate effectively, and so on.

From my experience, only 10-30% of employees possess the ideal qualifications. That means that 70-90% of the people we have to work with are less than or far from ideal. That's probably why that majority of us get frustrated with our team members.

How do we manage those non-ideal employees? It depends, but some of the guidelines below might work for you.

If you have someone with a negative attitude working with you, what should you do?

1. Ask yourself, "Am I the person who caused the negative attitude in this employee?" If the answer is yes, you need to fix it first.

2. If the answer is no, why? How do you know? Ask around. If that's not enough, ask the employee nicely, "I notice that you have some frustration. What causes it? How can I help?"

3. If you know the cause, then you might be able to fix it.

4. If you learn that the cause is not based on reason, accept that you are unable to change people's attitudes. You have to deal with that person by the book. Start with expectations. If the person is unable to deliver what is expected, deal with him or her according to the performance management process.

What about the employee who does not fit with the company's values? If your company has clearly established core values, you have to ensure that people understand their significance. Show them the company's vision, mission and business strategy and explain to them what kind of values must be upheld in order to achieve the goals.

If they understand but don't live the values, it's your call. You can work with people who are not living the values and are becoming a drag on team performance, or you can make the tough choice of termination.

What about people who don't have the skills and knowledge for the job? It's your responsibility to provide on the job (OJT) training. If you don't have time to do it, find time. You cannot blame the training department for the shortcomings of your people. Nobody can do OJT better than the direct manager.

What if people don't have ambition? If someone is doing a job well but doesn't seem very interested in moving to the next level, discuss the reasons with them. If someone has potential but lacks self-confidence, coach him or her to have better self-esteem. Alternatively, you could assign a more challenging job, with appropriate recognition afterward. Then, let the person decide. Don't try to push people who aren't ambitious into bigger roles because you could end up losing a good employee and getting a lousy manager.

What about people who don't work hard? As long as the person follows the company rules, coming on time and leaving on time and producing the expected results, don't bother intervening.

But if the same person is always on time but delivers poor results, it's probably not about working hard. Discuss it with that person and try to find out. Each person has a unique situation. If you find the root cause, you can probably fix the problem. In some cases, the person may be working hard but lacks the specific talent for that job. Consider a job rotation.

What if my people do not communicate effectively? Ask yourself: "How effective is my communication?" If you are also ineffective, fix your problem first.

If you feel you are a good communicator, compare those team members who are effective and those who aren't. Then, look for the distinctions that could be possible causes. If possible, try to share best practices from those who are effective with those who aren't.

What do we do with people who lack initiative? Have you ever told them that you expect them to take initiative, or shown them how? If you have done both, have you ever given them feedback? If yes, do you know why they have not been able to act on it?

There are some people who are shy or very introverted. They have initiative but they don't show it. If that's the case, you have to coach them. But most important, respect them. They may not be vocal self-starters but they probably need some time to think, reflect and maybe even write out what they want to do. Learn to understand and work with them.

We don't need every employee to be taking initiative all the time. It would be chaos. Hence, if you perceive someone as not taking initiative, what are their other strengths? Learn to maximise those strengths and not try to change the person.

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at