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A Practical Management Article

A Not So Rare Pair of Employees

Has one of your employees made you angry, frustrated, or worried recently? Probably the answer is yes. We frequently respond emotionally to employee behavior; it's part of being human and working together.

When people depend on one another to get work accomplished, there will be friction. Employees will occasionally do something wrong, or won't get something done on time, or will somehow drop the ball. When it happens, you feel "something" - anger, disappointment, frustration - and you often feel it strongly.

If you and your employee can talk about what happened in a way which resolves the problem, both of you will have learned something useful about the job and each other. The process contributes to greater team work.

The Problem - It May Have Nothing To Do With You

If the employee has the skills to do the job, has performed well in the past, but now isn't doing well, and if your management efforts don't bring about a sustained improvement, you probably have an employee with a personal problem. The troubles may be marital, financial, alcohol or drug-related, or perhaps they stem from a serious emotional conflict.

The decline has little to do with your skill as a manager. If the employee requires special help, even the best manager can't solve the employee's problem.

The Other Problem - It May Have Plenty To Do With You

Your other problem is what happens to you. Your feelings and responses to the employee are very much "your" problem. If you don't believe it, think back to the employee who often made you feel upset, angry, puzzled, guilty, frustrated, fearful or inadequate. You probably responded with the silent treatment, argued, threatened, pleaded, disciplined, counseled, or gave up (more than once). Ask yourself, “did I…”

  • Pray For A Miracle: You ignored the employee hoping the problem would go away.
  • Try to Use Reason: When you could no longer ignore it, you had a good "heart-to-heart" talk.
  • Plead: Then you begged, cajoled and threatened.
  • Bleed: Finally, you disciplined, fired, forced a resignation, transferred, or retired the employee.

Where Did You Go Wrong?

Start with the right employee first - you: That’s right, you. Before you can effectively deal with those that report to you, you must be clear about your own feelings towards them. Depending on the level of tension and conflict between you and a troubled employee, seek assistance. Helping you is sometimes the essential first step towards helping your employee.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • DON’T ignore a developing problem. It is likely to get worse.
  • DO stop trying to figure out what’s wrong with the employee.
  • DON’T become the counselor yourself. It’s difficult to be objective about your employees.
  • DON’T threaten discipline, unless you’re willing and able to carry your threats out.
  • DO pick up the phone and call your EAP counselor.
  • Most employees can and will resolve their problems. You can too.

Books

Essential Managers: Motivating People, Robert Heller and Tim Hindle, 1999, DK Publishing Merchandise Interesting, colorful little book for managers Ð part of a series.

Resources

Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)