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4-Step Approach To Managing A “Dr. Jekyll”

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “Tom, a long-term employee, recently transferred into my unit. He has a reputation of being "difficult," and now I know why. On good days, he’s productive, upbeat and pleasant. But on bad days, he’s critical, rude and hostile.  Unfortunately, the bad days outnumber the good days. As his manager, I’ve tried to be calm and supportive, but he’s exhausting me! What can I do?”  Dr. Jekyll’s Boss

Marie's Answer: Tom seems to be a chronic problem, yet wimpy managers keep transferring him from place to place. Now that you have the pleasure of his company, you need to avoid repeating this cowardly, pass-the-buck behavior. 

•    "Calm and supportive" is the wrong approach. You’re Tom’s boss, not his therapist. Would you “support” a 2-year-old having a tantrum?  Not if you wanted to change his behavior.
•     “Firm and direct” is a more appropriate leadership style when confronting a serious performance issue. Subtle hints and friendly encouragement will have no effect on an employee who routinely turns into the office terror.

•    Try this four-step approach:

1. Clearly explain the problems created by Tom’s disruptive behavior.
2. Describe the change that he must make. Put simply, he needs to be “good Tom” all the time.
3. Explain the negative consequences that you will impose if no change occurs.
4. Help him develop an action plan for improvement. When he feels a bad day coming on, how will he control his behavior?

•    Set a specific time to give Tom feedback. If he does well, praise his progress.  But if nothing changes, enforce the consequences that you’ve already established.

Be sure to take the time to follow up. Otherwise, Tom will get the message that you’re not serious, and you’ll be right back where you started.

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