Sunday, November 6, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Interpersonal Edge

Managing "teenagers" in the workplace

Tribune Media Services

Q: I recently hired a talented, rebellious employee who's driving me crazy. She doesn't break enough rules to get fired, but just enough to annoy me, like being a little late. I've also got a teenager at home blowing me off constantly. Any advice?

A: Many managers get the double whammy of difficult adolescents at home and immature employees at the office. I spoke to Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of "How to Talk so Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk" (HarperCollins, 2005), who've done communication workshops for Hallmark, Ford and other companies.

Faber and Mazlish recommend you start with the last thing we feel like doing when we're mad: listening to your employee's perspective and asking questions.

Faber emphasized the critical importance of empathizing and paraphrasing your employee's concerns before you try to problem-solve.

I know, when I'm mad, listening requires every ounce of impulse control I possess. I asked the authors how to make it easier.

"This isn't just a technique to shape people up, but a philosophy," Mazlish said.

Faber and Mazlish say if you treat people as if they're responsible, they'll help you create solutions. The next step, they said, is to state your point of view and problem-solve.

You might say, "Our policy requires me to put a letter in an employee's file after six late mornings and I really don't want to do that. Let's brainstorm some ways to be on time." Then write down all possibilities.

I really liked a suggestion these authors made about using impossible ideas to break the tension.

Faber pointed out that you could say humorously, "So one idea would be to forget about punching a time clock and come in whenever you want."

Then, after you both chuckle, you could add, "So which of these ideas would work best for you? The first one would be heaven. Too bad our policy won't allow it."

Faber and Mazlish say if you've done a good job listening and asking questions, the employee will be in a receptive mood to collaborate with you on solutions.

The last word(s)

Q: I'm preparing to make a career transition. If I do a thorough plan, will this make it less risky?

A: Planning minimizes risk; it doesn't eliminate it.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at; or at Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to:

Copyright 2005, Tribune Media Services


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