Simon Hayward from Cirrus in the FT
By Rhymer Rigby, 25 June 2012
Working with needy and emotionally fragile people is difficult whether you are their boss or their colleague. But can you help them to help themselves?
Where do I start?
“First, you have to decide whether you’ll accommodate them or whether you’re going to intervene to try and change the behaviour,” says Jane Clarke, author of Savvy: Dealing with People, Power and Politics at Work.
How can I improve things?
“Start by recognising that needy people normally need something,” says Simon Hayward, senior partner at Cirrus, the employee engagement consultancy. “Then make time for an honest conversation. If you explore the problem you can move through the feelings to a state where they’re thinking clearly for themselves. Then you can be a bit more straight-talking. It’s about strengthening them, then challenging them.”
Ms Clarke says that coaching and support from their manager is often enough, but with really ingrained problems, such as those that stem from childhood, you might need to seek external help.
Is it different if they’re a colleague?
“With colleagues, it can be harder initially, as you don’t have the ‘right’ to initiate the conversation,” says Mr Hayward. However, he adds, it may be easier once you are past that point because you have no power relationship with them.
What should I watch for?
Be careful of your own prejudices and recognise the response that these people trigger in you.
“If it’s someone who tends to cry at work, managers are often terrified,” Ms Clarke notes. “Because they’re scared, they don’t give feedback, and the individual is not criticised – to the detriment of their career. In effect, the manager and the person collude. If you’re the boss, you have a responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
Finally, Ms Clarke notes, you need to be careful if they start to feel they can treat you as a confidante: “It can be a real challenge making sure they don’t become dependent on you.”
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© Financial Times 2012