These blog posts take an interesting question that I was asked in my daily Live Q&A Podcasts on Facebook and give it another look. To listen to the entire Q&A, check out the podcast version on iTunes or Soundcloud for free access anywhere, or on my Facebook Page.
The Question: “How to manage an employee/student that is consistently needy in a time poor environment?”
Every manager comes across this from time to time, and it reminds me of a quote whose attribution I can’t place right now, “You get what you tolerate.” In many (if not most) cases where I see this behavior in the workplace, it turns out that the leader is often encouraging and rewarding this behavior by giving the employee exactly what they want without any effort required on the employee’s part. In effect, the leader makes it easy for the employee to not think. Now whether this is your case or not, the two ways to extract yourself from this situation are the same:
Answer questions with a question – When an employee comes to you with a question, especially a “needy” employee, it’s a great habit to get into to ask them one question:
“What do you think should be done?”
This question gives them a chance to exercise their decision-making skills, and hopefully forces them to think it through to an answer. In this case you can correct their thinking (if their solution is less than ideal) or you can acknowledge they made the correct decision AND encourage them to do the same in the future without asking you. To quote the old adage, “Don’t give a person a fish, teach them to fish.” In this case you aren’t giving the answer, you’re teaching them to come up with it themselves, then empowering them to act in the future.
Schedule time – Try cutting down on the interruptions by scheduling time(s) for the employee to come to you. Perhaps it’s formal “office hours” where everyone can come to you, or it is just 10 minutes in the morning and/or 10 minutes in the afternoon for a single employee to ask questions and get clarification. This also gives the employee another reason/encouragement to act instead of waiting. And if they come to you with something that could have waited (which WILL happen), simply answer their question and note that this was something that can wait in the future.
When you have a needy employee, you need to find ways to not only manage their interruption, but also to empower them and give them the confidence to act on their own. That starts with managing what you tolerate and dealing with it appropriately.
To ask me questions on leadership or management, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I would love to have you subscribe to the "Mentor Minutes Podcast" on iTunes or Soundcloud. I know it’ll be something that makes leadership easier for you.