No time for hand holding?

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OK, let's say you've been reading all our earnest articles about personnel management, and you've decided our recommendations boil down to this: Let your team suck every bit of energy from your body and then relish in the final freedom as your dusty molecules fly to the ends of the earth on the hot wind. That's not what we mean. Really.

OK, let's say you've been reading all our earnest articles about personnel management, and you've decided our recommendations boil down to this: Let your team suck every bit of energy from your body and then relish in the final freedom as your dusty molecules fly to the ends of the earth on the hot wind.

That's not what we mean. Really.

Or maybe your response to an article about how to help employees develop career goals or manage their personal problems would be, "Hey, I'm not cut out to be a shrink. And my employees know it. If they want to talk about how they feel, they need to see a professional."

Two things to remember: First, our suggestions won't work for everyone. You have to develop the right kind of relationship if you want to say what you're thinking and keep the other person in the room—much less at the table talking about solutions. If you don't have this kind of relationship, and you offer your unburnished opinion about your head technician's crazy new boyfriend—who can't keep a job for more than a month—moving in with her and her six cats, well, you're asking for trouble. So yeah, it's possible that this advice isn't for you.

I also wouldn't recommend giving health advice. Or suggesting a great weight loss program. Or recommending marital counseling. You see what I'm getting at, right? Unless and until you have the kind of relationship and the communication skills to get this stuff out there without offending the person you're talking to, don't go there.

To make this kind of thing work, the person you're addressing needs to believe that when you walk into a room and hear the wrong tone in a co-worker's remark about him or her, you would step in and launch a defense. That you truly recognize and value his or her contributions and talents. And that you have his or her best interest at heart.

I know this can seem like smushy softy stuff, and not like a hard business issue. So when we say, "You must appreciate co-workers for who they are, not the role they play, and help them achieve their potential," some of you think, "Hey, I'm not a parent. This is a business. Grow up."

I get it. You've got a job to do. So do they. I know. But acting as a sounding board when a team member's stymied—whether it's a work issue or a personal one that's driving him or her to distraction—could free some worry space in his or her brain so Mrs. Smith and Fluffy get more complete focus and more complete care. And the strong relationships you develop should make all that time you spend at work feel more rewarding. Because when you become part of a support group for others, they become part of yours, too.

Marnette Denell Falley

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