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Taming the shrews: How to turn around troublesome people

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,People Management

With some employees, the problem isn't a matter of ability, it's a matter of attitude. This can manifest itself in everything from quiet disobedience to outright insubordination.

How should you respond? Rather than becoming entangled in a debate about the employee's dysfunctional attitude, address the situation strictly as a behavioral problem. That way, it's not only easier to resolve, but also a better way to make a case for dismissal.

Troublesome People at Work: How to Coach, Counsel and Turn Around Problem Employees
Your first step is to document the behavior. Write down specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you, hurt team morale, damage productivity or reflect badly on the organization. Don't forget to record nonverbal behaviors, such as rolling eyes, clenching fists and staring into space.

Narrow the issue to the precise problem. Identify exactly what type of behavior the attitude has caused. This list may help:
  • Carelessness
  • Complaining
  • Disruptive or explosive conduct
  • Inattention to work
  • Insensitivity to others
  • Insubordination
  • Laziness
  • Negative/cynical posture
  • Surly/inconsiderate/rude talk
  • Excessive socializing

Record the frequency of such misconduct, plus how it affects work flow and colleagues' performance. List good business reasons why the behavior must end.

It's not always easy to confront an employee who’s slipping up, but Troublesome People at Work gives you pointers for identifying when there’s a problem, approaching the worker who's struggling and conducting a successful counseling session to make things better. Learn More

Meeting with the employee

When you sit down with employees to discuss attitude problems, try to determine whether they have a reason for their behavior. Is it a grudge against you or against the company in general? If you can't get to the root of the problem, don't think you can't resolve it.

Describe the behaviors you won't tolerate, and tell the employee firmly that those behaviors must stop. Too often, managers fail in their counseling efforts because they skip this (sometimes uncomfortable) step. Also, make sure the employee understands why the behavior must end. Explain how it's causing a problem.

Also, follow up with a description of the preferred behavior, such as cooperation, helpfulness and courteousness. Don't feel bad about being direct. Every manager has the right to demand that employees behave in a courteous and cooperative manner.

Finally, give the employee the opportunity to speak. The person may be unaware of what he or she is doing or not realize how it impedes other people's work. It may also turn out that the attitude problem is a symptom of a more serious problem that needs referral to the employee assistance program.

Don’t think it’s worth it to single out a struggling worker and take time out of your busy schedule to help? Think about this: How much is an hour of your time worth? How much does your most difficult worker earn? Add these two together and you’ll get the cost of an hour of supervision.

If Troublesome People at Work can save you even an hour of supervisory time, it’s already paid for itself. You'll learn:
    book cover
  • Specific strategies for coaching marginal workers so they can increase their productivity
  • Telltale signs of workers with personal problems, and what you should and shouldn’t do in response
  • How to counsel rule-breakers and disruptive workers
  • Special techniques for dealing with the hard cases, like sexual harassment, hostile attitudes and substance abuse on the job
  • Real-life anecdotes that illustrate challenging workplace situations. You can put yourself in other managers’ shoes and see how you would handle each instance
  • An in-depth review of the termination process, from progressive discipline to the termination interview to proper behavior post-termination
  • The importance of documenting workers’ words and behaviors to keep track of them and avoid future problems

Use this 'Memo to Managers' article to educate your supervisors. Forward this article to managers on your team who need to counsel employees with attitude problems.

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