How to Lead Your Least Favorite Employee

 In Coaching, Leadership Development

There are all sorts of reasons why someone may be considered a “bad boss” by her direct reports. Think about it–if you surveyed everyone on your team, would those that don’t like your leadership all have the same reason for disliking you? Probably not. It’s rare that everybody has the same opinion of someone else for the same reason. Now, the more common reality is that you may hold more or less responsibility for each person’s reason. For example, you may strongly dislike one of your immediate subordinates, which leads you to treat that person differently than their peers that you admire. This ultimately changes your working relationship and gives that employee more valid reasons to categorize you as a “bad boss.”

I don’t suggest any manager or leader excuse any reason for being considered a “bad boss”. Even more importantly, I will always argue that whether you like or dislike an employee should have ZERO influence on how you lead and manage that team member. Your personal opinion of that person should NEVER get in the way of how you professionally relate to that person. If it does, it’s time to redirect your emotion, energy and effort. Here’s how.

#1. Gain a big-picture perspective of the other person

Too often, I see managers irritated over that one quality that the one annoying team member exhibits. When you find yourself paying particular attention to the flaw that frustrates you, make a list of all of the qualities that you or others have come to appreciate about that team member.

#2. Don’t take it personally

Typically, step one and two go together. If you start building a broader opinion of the other person, you will start to see that what he or she does isn’t at all specific to you. Unfortunately, sometimes when we dislike others, we get it in our heads that everything they do is intentionally done to get under our skin – but that isn’t usually the case. As the leader, it’s your job to keep it professional, without taking it personally.

#3. Extend more trust

When there’s tension between leaders and team members, typically, there are trust issues. But, the secret to building a trusting workplace is to trust others before they trust you. Set an example. Again, you’re the leader – it’s up to you to set the bar for how you hope things will be. Even if people don’t like each other, a culture of trust ensures that people respect each other. And respect goes a long way.

#4. Set aside one-on-one time

It sounds a little strange to set aside one-on-one time with someone you don’t particularly like, right? Wrong. More time together could be the only thing that’s needed to help the two of you establish a better connection. If you don’t know all that much about one another, you’re going to have an easier time focusing on the only (and less appealing) things that you do know about one another.

#5. Build an empathetic environment

Empathy is underrated in every context, including the professional workplace. It’s a developed ability that’s a worthwhile asset for leaders to pursue and encourage in themselves and others. It’s the capacity to understand how someone else is feeling and why she might be feeling that way. Empathetic leaders understand that being a favorite isn’t a prerequisite to success; and they acknowledge that understanding others is.

Whatever you do, don’t let your personal opinion of a team member trump your professional relationship. You are bound to lead teams and individuals that you don’t particularly adore–but that doesn’t give you a reason to earn yourself the “bad boss” title.

By the way, do you want to learn more about proven approaches to coaching and increasing employee engagement? If so, I suggest you check out this complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire Employees: 10 Keys to Employee Engagement.

Or, are you going through change at work and need to coach your team through it? Then, check out this complimentary eBook: Changing Change Management.

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