We all work with tricky characters: Here's how to manage them

Martin Woolley
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Are you a workaholic? A thoroughly dependable introvert? Top-hatted gent? (Source: Getty)

Ask any business owner or chief executive what the most important asset to their business is, and the answer you’ll get from most – if not all – is “our people”.

No matter how automated, high-tech or process-driven the business, it’s the people inside it that provide 100 per cent of the creativity, dynamism, and ideas on which any company thrives. But some businesses seem to be able to get more from this powerful (human) resource than others.

How? The key is engagement.

Successful businesses do much more than just motivate their staff. The problem with the human resource aspect of business is that nothing comes anywhere near its complexity and instability.

People can be tricky and some can be trickier than others. Yet tricky characters can be the ultimate business advantage if managed correctly. So how do you engage these individuals and make a big difference to your business?

Here are several “types” you might come across – and how to manage them.

The workaholic

As a business leader, having workaholics on your team should be perfect in theory – because of their energy, enthusiasm, and the sheer volume of work they produce. However, real workaholics treat work like an addiction, and in some cases will need help regaining perspective and dealing with underlying issues. Workaholics should be encouraged to respect time with family, or away from work, as they risk burnout, and strain on relationships by prioritising work over other things.

The can’t-say-no

This type of character can cover a lot of ground and can sometimes spend more time working than others. This means that they will go outside the parameters of their brief, so it is important to make sure that these are clear, and you are aware of what they are doing. If they start down the wrong path, they might be a long way up it by the time you realise.

The thoroughly dependable introvert

Introverts can be easy to overlook as they will not often volunteer opinions – or enjoy being asked for them. As such, these types can be a good barometer of how you communicate as a business. They are no less engaged, ambitious, or interested in the business or industry they work in than extroverts – they just keep it to themselves.Written communication works well – for example, update emails, company newsletters, and intranets.

The chronically short of confidence

These types of characters are essentially positive, they simply have blocks or concerns that require an empathetic leader to be aware of, and to help them. Employees with low self-confidence are more likely to pay attention to negative feedback and self-criticise. Regular team meetings will naturally build their confidence with their peers.

The not-as-good-as-they-think-they-are

This character can be high maintenance, and ultra-competitive. They can find it difficult to let go until they’re convinced that they’ve won and – more importantly – that someone else has lost. Pair them with a mentor so that they are subjected to a role model, and can be persuaded to tweak their behaviour. The difficulty, however, lies in finding the perfect match between the employee and a mentor that is willing to impart their knowledge to someone else.

Regular staff meetings will naturally engage all these character types, and if you are obeying the golden rule of hiring – choose based on positive attitude above all other factors – often this will be enough.

Martin Woolley is chief executive at The Specialist Works.

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