How to manage challenging staff situations

Aug 22 21:01 2009 Richard Stone Print This Article

Handling difficult staff situations is one of the most common requests for people attending management training courses. This article provides some techniques to deal with these situations.

Many people attending management training courses say that the two most common challenging situations faced by managers are 1. How to handle impractical suggestions from your employees and 2. How to answer questions on which you can not give information.

As a rule,Guest Posting most managers are usually very grateful when a member of the their team or an office employee makes a suggestion or states an opinion. After all, many good ideas are generated by those doing the day to day job. However, when someone brings you an idea that is simply unrealistic it is important that you handle the matter sensitively.  Here are some tips that will help you deal with such a situation:

First, listen attentively while the person is speaking to you. Do not dismiss the idea straightaway as being completely impossible; after all it could contain some important information.

Ask clear, concise questions that will encourage positive answers. Sometimes careful use of questions helps the person realise that the idea is not realistic. It is better to encourage them to see the downfalls for themselves rather than you telling them.

Be diplomatic with your comments. When presented with a bad suggestion do not simply react saying "That is impossible". Show your employee that you are grateful for the idea and that you admire their diligence and concern.

Clarify your feelings on the situation but do not lecture the employee or make them feel stupid by saying things like ‘We tried that and it didn't work,’ which is the most common response given by delegates on management training courses.

One good technique is to outline the pros and cons of the suggestion and show why you believe the disadvantages are greater. Always give the employee the opportunity to reply with counter arguments. It will show them that you are a fair minded person, which in turn will earn you greater respect.

Look for a compromise.  Some ideas when modified are quite possible to achieve.  Even if the end result has little to do with the original suggestion, the employee will know that they were instrumental in the decision process.

Finally, never agree to a suggestion or idea simply because you like the person.

The second problem area that managers face is when one of your team asks you questions on which you cannot, or will not give information.  Perhaps they involve something which is to be kept secret or a decision that has not yet been made.

It is very important that when faced with this situation you do not pretend ignorance. It is dangerous to feign ignorance because if the employee's question proves to be true, then you will lose credibility. 

Do not treat the employee brusquely such as ‘why do you ask, it's nothing to do with you.’ If you react this way the employee will feel challenged, and you are providing fuel for rumour. If you do not wish to reply to an employee's question, or at least not immediately, then you should use demarcation strategies (you do not want to give any information) or delay tactics (You prefer to answer that question at a later date).

Demarcation: ‘I understand that this is of interest to you, but I cannot (will not) talk to you about it.’ By saying this, you are making it clear to the employee that he has overstepped the mark in his thirst for knowledge.  Do not make any additional comment or explanation.  They must accept your answer as it stands.

Delay Tactics: ‘I cannot answer your question at the moment, but I promise that you will be told if the matter comes to a head.’  The employee has a right to information, but when and how he receives that information is up to you.    

Using demarcation or delay tactics will help you react positively to an awkward situation. Attending a management training course can help you develop skills to handle difficult staff situations.

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About Article Author

Richard Stone
Richard Stone

Richard Stone ( is a Director for Spearhead Training Limited that specialises in running management training and sales training courses. Richard provides consultancy advice for numerous world leading companies and is the author of the How to manage challenging staff situations.

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