People can get really cranked up over this one! Frankly, I’d avoid the comparison if it didn’t keep coming up, and wasn’t so obviously true: peoples’ feelings about work colleagues – up and down the line – spring from very elemental needs: acceptance, approval, personal identity, and self-preservation (among others.)
So when I’m talking to a supervisor who says something like, “I’m not his mother, for God’s sake!” I nod in wholehearted agreement, and then gently nudge them to get on with accepting that the swirl of feelings and (mis)perceptions that characterizes any workplace is a reality every much as “real” as the latest work order – and not going away anytime soon.
Do you have to be Dr. Freud to manage people in the 21st century? No, but you definitely need a knack for compartmentalizing your own strong feelings, and, up to a point, accept the emotional baggage that just keeps coming through the door every day on the backs of your employees. It’s not about holding their hands enough, or wasting time wishing they weren’t who they are, but instead it’s about – first and foremost – managing yourself, modeling the adult perspective, and keeping the focus on the work. Easier said than done?
Of course. But once you get a feel for it, you’ll have far, far fewer managerial problems. That’s why it’s the already good supervisors who both “coach” their employees, and make use of Coaching themselves. It helps them get where they want to go, and then even beyond that.