Growing Great Companies


Take Control of the Team to Keep Peace in the Office

Ahhhh, workplace divas…always expecting the rest of us to cater to their every whim. And slackers, well, who doesn’t just love them? Constantly shirking responsibility and making excuses. Of course, let’s not forget those ever-respected pushovers—afraid to stand up for themselves, never knowing when to say “enough is enough.” But perhaps the most cherished of all people in the office is the good old-fashioned bully. Why life just wouldn’t be the same without their intimidating, hurtful ways.

I hope you can sense the sarcasm behind my sentiments. These types of personalities exist in almost every organization and they drive us nuts. Their antics keep co-workers constantly running for cover. As managers, we can’t run; we have to deal with them and their constant drama head-on.

But there is good news. While you may not be able to change the personalities of the players on your team, you can take back control. As a manager, you hold the key to keeping the peace. And using that key begins with understanding the one element that drives obnoxious, over-bearing and just plain bad behavior: the ego.

We all have egos. They keep us from thinking either too highly or too little of ourselves. They’re part of what gives us the self-confidence to succeed. And they drive our need to be recognized for our accomplishments. This is all perfectly normal.
But what happens when someone’s ego goes too far in one direction or the other? You end up with either a true egomaniac or an insecure wallflower. Either way, these exaggerations in ego can be extremely damaging to any workplace environment.

To complicate matters, there lies a hidden irony beneath all this: those with such high-maintenance or challenging egos also tend to be your top talent. While these people can wear your patience thin, the good news is that most of the time, it’s worth it. Think about it. Your “diva” salesperson, who takes over every discussion and tries to grab the spotlight, maintains peak sales numbers quarter after quarter with her confidence and charisma. Your “slacker” program manager, who constantly falls behind on documentation and reports, comes through time and time again when you’re in a pinch. Then there’s the department “bully”, your administrative assistant who continually criticizes other people’s ideas, boy does she take charge to keep you on schedule!
Yes, these high-performing employees will test your patience and at times your sanity. While you know full well they are too valuable to cut loose, it’s truly a challenge to lead them. So, what can you do to get these folks to perform “at their best” and “on their best behavior” at the same time?
The researchers at Crain’s Chicago Business seem to have found the answer. In 2007, they surveyed a selection of managers who handle larger-than-life personalities: opera divas, ego-intense news anchors and physicians, and high-strung clients in the bridal industry. What researchers discovered is that there is, in fact, a common set of skills and qualities among those who are able to most effectively manage high-maintenance egos.
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