You can’t knit people to fit your wants, needs and plans for them–but you don’t have to accept socks that don’t fit well or that make you miserable, either.
This could be about accepting people, identifying the challenges of similarities and differences between us and them or just about the fact that we’re all a mixed bag. We aren’t what we want to be most of the time and we wouldn’t know how to make the perfect person for us–at work, as a supervisor or manager, in personal relationships or business contacts–even if we had the raw components and were given Cosmic power to do it. We think we do, but we probably don’t.
Given that fact, we have to accept the other facts: No one is the right kind of person for us all the time. No one says, does and responds the best way all the time. Even the best people can disappoint you and even the worst people can positively surprise you. The key to surviving and thriving is to know when to accept, when to shrug off, when to forgive, when to adamantly complain, when to re-train, when to warn of consequences, when to sanction formally and when to exit them or exit yourself.
One thing is for sure: Although we can insist upon some changes and make them happen if we have enough authority or influence (come to work on time, don’t gossip about coworkers, get your work done in a one day turn-around, don’t use that language, don’t treat me in that way again, flush, etc.), only the individual can change his or her mind and basic character and approach to life–and often that is not very successful.
If you want to know how difficult it will be for you to change someone, try changing yourself. If you want to know how difficult it will be for the other guy to change himself or learn new habits, try changing yourself or learning new habits. Translate your fifteen pound weight gain over a lifetime–the one you can’t seem to get rid of now because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough–into some of the habits and behaviors of the employee who doesn’t get work done on time or does poor quality work, creates conflicts in the office or gets repeated complaints from customers. Do you think he or she will change unless the penalities are so great there is no choice?
Decision times are tough. But once you’ve made the decision, keeping at it is all it takes. In my classes about working with challenging employees I often have each participant talk to their desk partners about the most challenging employee with which they are dealing. They are supposed to end that conversation by saying, “Here is what I am doing about it when I get back to work.” Invariably some participants laugh through that part as though they know it’s impossible and it’s a joke to even consider it. It becomes obvious that one or two want tips and techniques that don’t require them to do anything overt about the employee’s behavior or performance. Sadly, they will require everyone else to put up with a problem employee in order to avoid the discomfort of doing something about it. So, who is the biggest challenge in that situation?
The bottom line: Ask for changes when you can. Insist upon them when it is possible. If you are a coworker, document your complaints, go to the right person about them and ask for an investigation with the goal of change; if you are a supervisor provide assistance, encourage and support, correct and encourage again. But, if those things aren’t at least starting to work after a reasonable amount of time for the situation (sometimes that’s a brief amount of time, sometimes a longer amount) you will need to do something that might make the other person uncomfortable, resentful or very angry. You may have to unravel his life and work, to use the sock analogy, to get the change that is required. That is when it’s time for the Davy Crockett advice: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.