I get a lot of questions about workforce issues, but this one is pretty common so I thought I'd share it with you. Below is an e-mail I received seeking advice on how to handle a co-worker who needed to learn a little “executive presence" and my response. What do you think? Anyone disagree with my advice? I would love to have your comments to add to this discussion. QUESTION: I work for a small business with a relatively flat organizational structure — my immediate supervisor is the VP, and the “big boss" is the owner and the president of the company. My previous subordinate, who had very little work experience, would frequently interject with their take on the situation at hand (even though the information was occasionally incorrect) and my boss would ignore it. So the question here is: How do you deal with a co-worker or subordinate who does not possess tact or professional etiquette? MY RESPONSE: Thanks for your question. This is a tricky one indeed. I understand the temptation would be to tell your supervisor about it and request he or she handle. I'm not sure how old you are but IF (and only if) you are relatively new to the workforce and you're dealing with difficult coworkers:
- Request a meeting with your boss.
- Come to the meeting prepared with 3-4 demonstrations of your co-worker's inappropriate behavior.
- Address the problem not as someone who is “complaining" but who is generally concerned for the success of your co-worker and the company as a whole.
“Look, I understand you feel very strongly about ____________. Do you have time to grab a quick coffee?"Then, when you're alone, follow steps 2 and 3 above, i.e. cite specific instances of offending behavior and approach the conversation as someone who is trying to lift them up, not tear them down. Note: Behavioral alignment is something every manager has to deal with. Sure it would be great if we all showed up at work every day, got along perfectly, and did our jobs to the best of our ability with no conflict, but that's not realistic. And I tell you this because if you understand sometimes friction is normal, these situations will be less intimidating and, over time, they will become easier for you to handle. The thing to keep in mind is that – by correcting behavior that will limit your co-worker's professional success – you are actually helping them and your business in the long run. If you do this well, I promise you'll make the ultimate crossover from manager to leader. Finally, what I've outlined here is the mature, responsible way for you to handle the situation. If you follow these steps and are met with a decidedly immature reaction, your employee may be mismatched with your company. If that's the case, circle back with your boss, outline the situation (again, respectfully and professionally) and ask for their input on next steps. If he / she continues to ignore the situation, it may be time for YOU to look elsewhere. Good luck. Emily Bennington, founding partner of Professional Studio 365, leads programs that help companies get the most out of their career newbies, while helping said newbies connect their efforts to the organization's big-picture goals.