The Missing Manual

A User Guide with FAQ

Do you have anyone working in your team that constantly needs your attention?

Do you wish you understood why that was?

Wouldn’t it be great if people came with a user guide? A quick user guide with FAQ?

Missing Manual

The Contact Database in your head

Most people will think this amusing however in reality we all build up a database in our heads about how to interact with each of the people we work with and regularly come into contact with, this consists of such things as:

  • The person’s behaviour, are they direct or off-hand, friendly and chatty, humorous or serious?
  • What are their interests, sport, politics, travel, music etc.
  • How do you handle them when you can see they are in a “mood” do you avoid, console, talk etc?
  • What cheers them up? Makes the laugh.
  • What motivates them, “what flicks their switch”.

So we subconsciously think of these things but most people would never write them down or create a database on their computer because human interaction has to be very dynamic and natural.

Profiling Tools

Over the years various tools and techniques have been developed by psychologists which can be brought to bear on this problem by profiling people. Many use colours to “type” behaviours giving us a quick taxonomy of behaviour types. This really helps for most day to day exchanges but what do you do when someone on your team simply outputs an “error message”? It doesn’t have to be in your team of course it could be family, friends or your partner.

Venus & Mars

There has been much written on the differences between men and women in this respect. Women play the “guess what’s wrong with me game” and the only solutions which men have developed to this over centuries are:

  • Ask questions, get the facts and solve the problem
  • Withdraw and ignore

Unfortunately both approaches simply irritate the problem, a woman doesn’t want the problem solved, and she doesn’t want to be ignored.

A Solution for the Workplace

The point is often in the workplace we chose the latter approach, we ignore the problem, after all if we can get though until 5:30 or Friday things might be different with the passing of time.

Interestingly the first approach, developed over centuries is rarely used in the workplace and this is one instance where it might actually work because of the context giving rise to the “error message”.

So if there is a problem with one of your team, don’t leave it to fester or until the next, day, week, meeting or even annual appraisal, confront the problem, just ask and then develop alternatives with them and jointly decide on the way forward.

So there is no missing manual, the key to solving problems in the workplace is to “just ask”!

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