D. Murali

Almost every fifth minute, the management is busy, not with improving quality or recognising good work by the employees. But, just bogged down `resolving staff personality conflicts'. Thus, alarms a recent survey by Accountemps (www.accountemps.com) , `the world's first and largest specialised temporary staffing company for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.'

At 18 per cent or `more than seven hours each week', the current year's tally of hours spent `sorting out personality conflicts among staff members' is on par with the situation a decade ago, but double of what prevailed in 1986. The findings are based on the responses of 150 senior executives from among the largest of US companies.

"While some personality conflicts are serious in nature, even small disagreements can cause friction," states a press release on the site. "Managers can reduce office disharmony by being aware of employees with habits that disrupt productivity and nipping problems in the bud." To help, the site speaks of `some common year-round workplace goblins' and offers `tips on managing them'.

The first type is `the laughing hyena'. A page about the animal, on Wikipedia, explains that the spotted hyena has a distinctive laughing call, `used to disorient prey and gather the pack'. As a personality type, the laughing hyenas at work are those that find everything funny, especially their own jokes, says Accountemps.

You can hear these `hyenas' from afar, because they are not aware that their voice carries and `can be heard many cubicles away'. What is the remedy? "Encourage employees to try to keep their voices down during conversations and find a conference room for meetings where speakerphones are used."

Next type to watch out for is `the ghost employee'. He is `staff member you can never find'. If you have wondered why "some people seem perpetually away from the office and turn up only rarely for meetings and group events," you have the answer. Coax your boss, therefore, to bell the ghost!

The third type is `the witch's brewer'. That should remind you of the three witches, in Macbeth, who chant in chorus, "Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble." Today's witches may not be throwing in "eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog," as the Bard eloquently pens. Yet, "It's hard for people to concentrate on their work when they're overcome by the smell of someone's microwave popcorn or reheated dinner," reasons Accoutemps.

The last goblin is `the office spook'. "This type relishes scaring co-workers, especially the new ones, about the hardships of working at your business." For instance, he or she may be `painting the boss as a fire-breathing ogre' or `spreading other tales of woe'. See if you can handle him or her individually, and turn around the spooky pessimism.

SayCheek@TheHindu.co.in

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 12, 2006)
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