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Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership development expert and author of Contagious Leadership and newly released, Make Difficult People Disappear. We’ve talked a lot throughout September about difficult people and when you let them go and the tool Make Difficult People Disappear. What happens though when you have more than one difficult person and you get in the middle? A lot and nothing positive that I can think of, but let’s take a look. Why is it a bad plan for middle managers to get in the middle of two well meaning, but difficult employees? The answers may surprise you.

You Train Them to Run to You

Managers need to be available to team members, yes, but they do not need to be the conduit for venting or whining. Listening to the “he said, she said” for prolonged periods of time and then worse, fixing the problem FOR them by transferring someone or mediating, trains them to run to you instead of fixing the problem themselves. You want to develop initiative, not foster dependence.

Talking About Drama Doesn’t Make it Go Away

The more you talk through and listen to the drama or difficulty between two team members, particularly if its gotten out of hand, the more fuel you put on that “fire”. That’s not to say that you never get involved. What I’m saying is handle it swiftly and if it continues and you find they would prefer to discuss it than fix it, back out of the middle and stop contributing to the number of people with whom they can continue the discussion.

You Can’t Pick a Side from the Middle

If you dislike drama, that’s a stand. If you want team members to “work it out among themselves”, that’s a stand. Whatever you stand for or expect, you can’t take that stand, so to speak, while standing in the middle. Being in the middle will cloud your judgment, drain your energy, increase your frustration, steal your time away, and quite possibly cause you to feel forced to make a hasty decision. Watch from the sidelines and when the time comes to make a call, you’ll make the one that only the referee can see. Refs don’t stand in the middle of the court or field to make a call, they observe the ball and THEN make the call because they can see the bigger picture.

Stay out of the middle, but stay on top of the situation. Don’t get involved, but help them understand how to resolve the problem. Managers transitioning to leadership don’t take a completely hands off approach to team members, they simply know when to put their hand up to interject and when not to put their hand in the middle of problem.

I’m Monica Wofford, and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday, an even better week and of course, stay contagious!

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