I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but I hear a lot of stuff. I guess it comes with the profession. Joys, frustrations, worries, opinions, rants, you name it and I’ve probably heard it. When the person across from me happens to be a manager, the conversation almost always finds its way to the topic of direct reports. Often there is one particular direct report that represents the thorn in the manager’s side. Sometimes, the issue is that the direct report that just can’t seem to “get it.” Other times, the direct report has become the manager’s nemesis. Having done this rodeo a time or two, I can tell you that sometimes the manager has got a real nightmare on their hands. Other times, they are either overreacting or actually creating the problem themselves through poor leadership or bad communication. How do I know? Or better yet, how can you tell the difference yourself?
There are several signs I look for as the conversation meanders. Read the following and make a mental note on how many times you find yourself nodding your head.
1. When you are hanging out with family and friends, you spend more time talking about your irritating direct report than any other person in the world. Not good.
2. You either have restless nights or actual nightmares starring your direct report and their shenanigans.
3. The last time you felt this all-consumed and frustrated was that toxic relationship you had back in college (extra points if you stalk your direct report via social media).
4. You dream of finding ways to get your direct report another job. And if you could convince the competition to higher him or her, that’s a win-win (extra points if you have sent their resume to anyone).
5. When your direct report is on vacation, people seem to work better (happier, more productive, etc…). Extra points if you have ever intentionally sent them on vacation to increase productivity (one client of mine actually sent their direct report on a mission trip to Africa for six months).
6. You’ve met with your direct report at least 3 times to discuss changes in their performance. The result? Nada, nothing, zilch, it’s the same old song and dance (extra points if you’ve exceeded 5 conversations).
7. In team meetings, your direct report is creatively disruptive (derails conversations, crosses their arms, interrupts or argues with you, plays on their phone, etc…).
8. You get complaints about your direct report from any of the following people: customers, other departments, other direct reports, your peers, your boss (extra points if you’ve heard complaints from ALL of those groups).
So, how did you do? If you answered “Yes” to at least half of the signs above, you’ve probably got a problem. If you ended up with a perfect score, congratulations. You have found your nemesis: your Lex Luthor, your Ursula, your Darth Vader, your wicked step sister, you get the idea. Recognizing what you are dealing with is half the battle. The second half is doing something about it. Hold tight. Prescriptions and treatment plans are on their way.