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Keeping It Professional When Things Get Personal

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

It’s tough being a team leader, and approaching colleagues can be a little uncomfortable. Separating work from personal, as well as maintaining a professional attitude, can oftentimes be difficult when faced with a team member’s poor behavior.

Focus on behavior versus attitude. I had a 25 year old team lead say to me, “her attitude just sucks.” When I asked exactly what he wanted her to do differently, we took the conversation from an emotional focus, to more concrete.

Keep these 4 tips handy to make the discussion less personal:

  1. Focus on facts and specifics. Look for the behavior you want to change. Ex: I want her to show up to work on time. I want him to generate 10% more sales per month.

  2. Write down what you see or hear and then turn it into what you want to see or hear. Ex: When on a customer call, she came across as defensive when a customer complained. I want her to empathize with the customer immediately and offer to fix the problem.

  3. Be objective. Don’t get emotional or take it personally. Sometimes people just didn’t get trained or didn’t understand the training the first time. When you hear or see them do something they’re not supposed to, turn it into a training opportunity.

  4. Don’t assume. Just because a person seems angry, lazy or otherwise, they may just be thinking about something else. Always focus on the specific actions of what you are seeing and hearing and don’t assume something without taking a deeper dive into the situation.

Remaining objective and separating your personal emotions from the situation will lead to a more productive discussion and outcome when faced with an individual’s negative attitude. Having to re-explain workflows or expectations can be frustrating, but by doing so in a collected and professional manner, the relationship between the team leader and the individual will remain positive and in a healthy state.

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