Harvard Manage Mentor – Difficult Interactions
Your colleague Mike has just been promoted to director of business services. He tells you that he is having difficulty with Faye, one of his new direct reports. Each time he assigns a task to her, she reacts negatively and complains that she already has too much to do. Mike doesn’t think Faye is overloaded with work; it seems to him that she is just a chronic complainer. What is the bestadvice you could give Mike to help him more effectively manage his interaction with Faye?
Wait a few weeks before taking any action. This type of problem usually resolves itself.
Try to ignore Faye's behavior. Even if you make an effort, you can't change someone.
Before doing anything, decide whether the problem is worth addressing.
Let Faye know that only she can improve the relationship by changing her behavior patterns.
The work of your product development team has come to a halt. Jack voices his opinion that the new cereal you are developing should be targeted to weight-conscious teenagers. Patti argues that health-conscious parents are a better target market. The statements that Jack and Patti have made describe their …
You manage a team responsible for selecting new locations for Go-Food-Go, an international fast-food restaurant chain. While selecting a location in one region, your team reaches a stalemate. Kim takes the stance that the new restaurant should be located on the major highway at the edge of town. Randy’s stance is that it should be located at a key busy intersection in town. Where are Kim and Randy likely to have the most difficulty when trying to reconcile their differences?
Understanding the issue.
Knowing their positions.
Understanding the underlying interests.
Understanding the point of the dispute.
Rodney, one of your direct reports, has been causing trouble since coming to your department. He starts rumors about other members of the team and tries to isolate certain people, leaving them out of important discussions, team events, and even social functions. You talk to the manager in Rodney’s old department and find out he behaved the same way there, despite the manager’s repeated efforts over several months to solve the problem. What course of action will you most likely have to take?
Remind yourself of the importance of delegating as a managerial skill and let the affected employees solve the conflict in their own way.
Recognize that difficult interactions takes time and energy, and resolve to fix the situation, no matter how long it takes.
Give Rodney a deadline for improving his behavior and dismiss him if he doesn't change.
Use any reasonable means you can to force Rodney to change the way he behaves.
Billy Thundercloud, a food chemist at Ice Castle Ice Cream, is on a committee developing a novelty ice cream flavor for a food products convention, an assignment that will last about two weeks. He gets along well with the other five committee members, except Herb C. Bradley, the sales manager. Billy doesn’t often work with sales people and he wonders if they’re all like Herb: loud, obnoxious and rude. He also wonders whether he should confront Herb about his behavior. What would be bad advice to give Billy?
Decide first whether he really just wants to let off steam about the pressure he's been feeling on the job lately.
Solve the problem any way possible, because all relationships within the company are important to its survival.
Think about whether there's something about his own working style that is provoking Herb.
Decide whether there's any hope of changing Herb's behavior, even in the short term.
Juan Contreras is in charge of safety testing for a new line of bicycles your company is developing. He doesn’t seem to be keeping on top of his work and appears resentful when you speak to him about it. The project is now two weeks behind. You wonder if your management style might be part of the problem, so you ask a consultant how to handle the situation. What is the bestadvice she can give you?
Tell Juan what happened when the safety testing didn't get finished on time at the last company where you worked.
When you speak with Juan, don't be diverted by trying to explain why his cooperation is important, since the effect on the project is obvious.
It is a bad strategy to admit that your management style may be part of the problem, because Juan may use that as an excuse not to try to improve his performance.
During the discussion, don't reveal your thoughts. This will encourage Juan to do the talking and help him realize how he might be endangering the project.
The sales vice president calls Malik and Joel into his office so they can explain why second-quarter sales were down. During the meeting, Joel complains about quality problems with a new supplier Malik has chosen. That angers Malik because Joel has never talked to him about quality problems before. After the meeting, he decides to talk to Joel about it. What is the best way for Malik to express his anger?
"I was angry because you did that to make me look bad in front of the vice president."
"When you talked about quality problems in front of the boss, I felt embarrassed, and that made me angry."
"I was upset that you behaved so unprofessionally."
"You'll never understand how that made me feel."
Maria, a manager in another department, is having personality clashes with the newest member of her team. She admits to you that the confrontations are beginning to make her doubt her abilities as a manager. She asks you to suggest a strategy to help her protect her self-image. What is the bestsuggestion you can give her?
Protect your self-image by adopting an "either/or" mindset.
When you feel your self-image being threatened, concentrate your thoughts on other issues.
Give your self-image a boost by recognizing that you always have the best intentions, even if the results don't always work out as you hoped.
Write down what you consider to be your qualities as a manager.
You are a manager in the product development department of Hardy Hardware, a nation-wide handyman store. While discussing the rollout of a new tool in a monthly meeting, your direct report François vehemently opposes the suggestions of several team members. He appears hostile and is making other team members uncomfortable. What is the least productive way to frame the problem when speaking to François?
"François, you seem to have different priorities than the rest of the team in developing the new tool."
"Perhaps I might have contributed to this standoff by not making my selection criteria clear enough."
"François, there’s no place in this group for somebody who doesn’t take the selection process seriously."
"People on this team are feeling uncomfortable and frustrated by your rejection of all of their proposals."
You've been asked to teach a night school course on conflict resolution. Tonight, the topic is conflict in the workplace. Which of the following is most likely to appear in your lecture notes?
"Conflict in the workplace can be very destructive. A manager should always get involved at the first sign of trouble."
"When intervening in a conflict, the manager should define the problem for the individuals, using specific, observable terms."
"When an argument between two direct reports broadens to encompass more staff members, a manager should not intervene, as long as those other staff members are of equal rank."
"When intervening, a manager should let the employees do most of the work in resolving the situation."
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