How to Acknowledge and Defuse a Staff Member (POSITIVELY!)

while trying to do 5 things at once

5 ½ min read

I’ll set the scene for you…it’s 11.45, you have 10 script baskets in the queue, an order to complete (you haven’t started), Mr Smith coming back for his DAA in half an hour (still haven’t checked it), your dispense tech is about to go to lunch AND one staff member is in your ear about their MAJOR problem of no stock… or too much stock… or their email won’t send… or POS will not generate the report they NEED (you get the drift). As managers or leaders within a Pharmacy, it is likely that you have been in the middle of this scenario at least once, if not often! In these cases, it is all too easy to ignore, fob off or snap at our colleague. But there is a better way! By drawing on some emotionally intelligent leadership skills, the situation can have a positive outcome for all.

If you follow these THREE simple steps you will be able to prioritise your jobs, validate the staff member’s problem and assist in finding a solution later.

Step 1. Acknowledge them and their problem

Fundamentally, people want to be seen and heard when they’re talking. As such, this simple sentence, delivered with genuine tone, understanding and body language (aka empathy!) goes towards answering this basic human desire:

I understand that this (*insert problem here*) is a big problem for you.

By simply acknowledging the person trying to grab your attention, you will have satisfied their first need, to be visible and their opinion or problem valued.

Step 2. Offer a compromise

We have already established that in this scenario, you have some time sensitive things that need to get done. While this may seem obvious to you, it may not be obvious to the person conveying their problem. So… take a moment to explain:

“I would like to help you fix this but now is not the best time because we have lunches starting, Mr Smith coming back for his DAA in half an hour, all of these scripts to complete and the order to send. Would it affect your outcome if we waited and discussed this after lunches are finished and I have completed these jobs? After this I would have more time to think about it properly.

Of course, you can never control someone else’s thoughts or opinions, so while we hope that the answer will be ‘yes, that sounds good.’ it might not be…

Here are some contingency responses to a negative response without you doing the heavy lifting of ‘fixing’ it in that moment:

– Who else do you think may be able to answer this for you? Can you ask them?

 – Am I the best person to be helping you?

–  Do you have a potential solution you can run by me now that I can say yes or no to?

– What will happen if this doesn’t get fixed before I complete these time sensitive jobs?

Step 3. Give them ownership in the solution and FOLLOW UP

While of course the person would likely have preferred their problem fixed by you on the spot, by following steps 1 and 2, acceptance is usually forthcoming. Now the trick is to not drop the ball! It is important to ensure that you confirm the acceptance and then FOLLOW UP! This can go something like the following:

Thank you for understanding, it’s really appreciated! Can you please come to find me once lunches are complete and we’ll try and look at it then? I’ll try and seek you out, but I know I do have a weakness of getting side-tracked. Does this work for you? If not, when works for you?

We all know things happen and sometimes the best-laid plans don’t come to fruition but there is no excuse for not following up as you intended. Even if this follow up is to minorly delay once again. While not ideal, it allows your colleague to know you value them enough to talk to them about it as opposed to avoiding them.

That’s it! If you acknowledge them and their problem with empathy, offer a compromise and give them ownership of the solution you will likely have success! BUT a word of warning…DON’T FAIL THE FOLLOW UP!!!!! ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ as the saying goes. Everyone is only as good as their word so make sure you stick to yours otherwise your colleague’s trust in you will likely take a dive.

If you’re time strapped, you can stop reading now…if you want the secret to really making it work keep reading below…

Want to know how to make sure this works??? The secret to making this work is really tapping into the 5 areas of emotional intelligence for leadership:

Self-awareness: You are likely going to be a little flustered, dismissive, and maybe even a bit annoyed at the incoming distraction. Acknowledge this to yourself. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with emotions if you see them for what they are…passing emotions…

Self-regulation: Once you are aware of your emotions in any situation you can practice self-regulation.  Self-regulation is keeping your emotions in check. Do this by not snapping or making emotional or rash decisions. Taking a moment to have a breath. Your future self (and your colleague) will thank you for it!

Motivation: While we associate motivation with achieving goals, it also takes motivation to stay true to your word and stay accountable to your own standards. In this case, possibly consider the motivation to be that if you get it right and follow up, you might buy yourself more time and less explanation next time!

Empathy: Put yourself in your staff member’s shoes. How would you feel if you kept getting fobbed off or snapped at because your colleague/boss was too busy to acknowledge and understand your position or answer your questions? If you make decisions (big or small) with empathy, your body language, what you say and how you say it will be imparted kindly.

Social Skills: As I said before, you can’t control someone else’s response or emotions. So, being able to articulate your opinion or why you have made a particular decision is a really important tool! Social skills aren’t just for ‘networking’. It encompasses conflict resolution and having difficult conversations effectively as well as communicating reward and positive feedback as well.

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