Working with People

Working with people is an art.


Jacquelyn Smith, a Forbes staff writer composed an outstanding article about leadership entitled, “The 20 People Skills You Need To Succeed At Work”, where she outlined the need for anyone leading people to possess “people skills”.

People come to us in all different shapes and sizes. They come to us when they are happy, they come to us when they are sad. People come to us angry, they come to us with indifference. People are some of the most incalculable creatures on the planet. Some of us may feel that people, like computers are predictable and measureable, but when the facts are laid out on the table, people are as unpredictable as the weather.

When engaged in conversations, there are senders and receivers.

One can joke, cajole, even harass another with spontaneity or humor, expecting a laugh as a response, but there can be times when the response may not be one that is expected by the sender. The response may be anger, frustration, laughter, sadness…any number of responses when confronted with a decision to react with an emotion, always triggered by any number of variables. Some people may be experiencing outside influences such as personal challenges, professional challenges, personality conflicts, even a lack of an empathic response to the sender’s attempt at humor.

Some senders insist on enticing a reaction from the receiver.

Sometimes, a sender may insist on  a reaction from the receiver. Reactions could include embarrassment, anger, hostility, rage, subjectivity, or submission. For example, a manager may harass or ridicule an employee by including them in some “harmless” office fun, by making them the brunt of jokes. Perhaps the manager will ask the employee a question that seems innocent, yet is laced with innuendo and cynicism about the employee. Generally, situations generated by managers that involve placing employees in awkward positions can arise from a lack of empathy for the employee, or a desire by the manager to “put the employee in their place”.

The workplace can be a place for professional behavior, or unprofessional behavior.

It is up to the manager to set the tone for the office. Managers must remember that they are not gods, nor are they omniscient or omnipotent. Managers may often be misled by the impression that they are in control of the office and those employees who work for them; but they are not in control. Managers need to remember that they are influencers who guide the emotional tone of those around. them. I have been managing classrooms for over 30 years (on and off), and have had the opportunity to learn a lot about behavior and influence from my students. As a classroom manager, I have found that I am indeed, an influencer of those people I face, but I do not hold sway over their every decision. I can influence the people I am managing by my reactions to any emotion that is expressed by them. As a manager, I might temporarily remove a student in order to get their attention, I may listen to what they have to say in class, or I may schedule a private conference with my student, so that I have the opportunity to offer feedback that is both constructive and helpful to the student. I have learned in all my years of managing my classes that customer service is critical in order to not only maintain a semblance of control in my classroom, but also influence the desire to listen to what I have to say from my students.

It is important for managers to remember that those who represent them are people with feelings, complete with responses.

Managers need to remember that if their employees confront them openly, or object strongly and openly to policy that has been implemented, that manager needs to learn how to give them time to express their feelings. As a manager, I have had plenty of students who were angry or upset about the way I might be presenting a subject or teaching my class. I always am happy to take them aside and listen to them. I work hard in my conversations to maintain eye contact with my student, no matter how angry or frustrated they may be. I will also ask them for examples that they may be thinking of that could improve whatever they may see as an issue to be resolved. I will thank them for their input and give myself a chance to think over what they have said, usually an hour or two while I deliberate. I will then call my student back into the conversation and deliver my decision, thanking them for their input. This routine has always been successful. It has given me the opportunity to see how I am performing as a classroom manager or teacher through someone else’s eyes. I may or may not change what that person has relayed to me, but that is the answer I will always deliver to the class as a whole. I go to great lengths to keep my answers without any defamation or anger, instead going to great lengths to thank the student that addressed whatever they felt the problem was, and how I intend to resolve their complaint. This method has been a time-tested method in using my influence as a manager to lead class after class, again and again for years.

The art in leading or managing people is maintaining a level of mutual respect.

The manager who is willing to show undying respect for their employees and expect the same treatment in return is the manager who successfully influences their team. “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Read more at is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” – Ben Roethlisberger

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