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Managing a disrespectful employee

by on
in Your Office Coach

Question: “I am a fairly new manager. One of my employees thinks he knows everything and frequently talks back to me. Every morning, I have a short staff meeting, and so far this guy hasn't shown any signs of wanting to attend. I told him that I might need his input and asked if he's ever going to join the meetings. He replied that he saw no point in it.  What should I do ?” —  Baffled Boss

Marie’s Answer:  Like many new supervisors, you’ve learned that a manager title doesn’t automatically produce respect and compliance. Tolerating insolent behavior sends the message that you’re a doormat, so consider these suggestions:

•    Assert the authority of your position to control disruptive employees. When you “ask if he’s ever going to join the meetings,” you sound like you’re begging, not managing. 

•    Replace your weak request with a strong statement. Example: "Even though you don’t like attending our daily meetings, I need you to be there. I’ll expect to see you at the meeting on Monday." 

•    After clearly stating your expectations, tell him what will happen if he fails to show up.  (Before talking with him, agree with your boss on an appropriate consequence for missing meetings.) Then end the conversation without giving him a chance to argue.

•    If this obstinate fellow is absent again, impose the promised consequence without delay.  And if he continues his rude and rebellious behavior, consult with your human resources manager about appropriate next steps. 

For more tips on handling challenging people, see Seven Employees that Drive Managers Crazy.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucy May 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I have an employee who completely ignored my direction in front of me and when I questioned what she was doing she turned to her co-worker and stated I was being rude to her. I think firing her for this instance is the right thing to do but I am a small business and not interested in paying unemployment to her. What would be the best alternative thing to do?

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samatha May 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hello everyone, I am having the same problem i am a site manager for a daycare and our meetings are mandatory every Friday. And for the last month this same young lady shows an attitude and thinks she can tell me when to put her on or off the schedule. It is very disruptive and disrespectful. I am so fed up but she is never late and has only called out one time in the 5 months that she has worked here.. any suggestions?

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Des March 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Unless you make it clear to him that the meetings are mandatory to attend, he probably won’t attend. If you need him there for support, then he should be there.

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Anil Pullabhatla December 2, 2009 at 2:08 am

This might be little odd…..but there is no other way…..

1) For getting such type of employee under your command…you need to more commanding….
2) first find out where he is lacking (in work)…or where is his weakness.
2) Try to have your command more on those area…better than him
3) When u r calling for a meeting, shoot a mail saying that you want everyone to be present including that employee who doesn’t want to come.
4) During the meeting, don’t give him a chance to give any excuses, make him to accept your version of argument. There should only be a monologue not dialogue. Now don’t play the same trick with other employees.
5) Before you starting doing this, talk to your superior and explain him about that employee. Try to put some negative feeling abt him.
6) Importantly, neve make any requests with him. You need to be very assertive.

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Mohan M Prasad December 2, 2009 at 1:44 am

While I tend to endorse the traditional view “you have to command and not demand respect”, so be it and may the maxim rest for a while. .

Here the issue is of consent and compliance to the authority which is being put to acid test especially since this guy considers you a green horn to the organization.

Remember, it’s not an interpersonal issue rather a brewing group dynamics of acceptance of a new authority.

There is no two ways save your putting the foot down about all members including him attending the staff meeting.

Make it sacrosanct. It’s your call after all.

Remember, invariably such people operate in an undesirable style and in their haste to hold on to it , dilute the substance of their view point. This will have to be exposed in the presence of other members and here you should be able to play on the peer pressure to ensure he falls in line.

Under no circumstances you should submit and or succumb. Treat it as a challenge to tell him and even others “who is the boss”.

Same time give ample signals that you are a person who welcomes suggestions, alternative view points etc in the greater interest; as long as the decorum of articulating is understood clearly.

The game plan here is to isolate him earlier than he maneuvers to isolate you.

Who is going to wink first and who is going to crack the whip will decide the winner.

The organization structure has given you the platform, you just need to stand up and make it your victory stand.

The last resort should be to escalate to seniors. That will show your managerial mettle in poor light.

All the best

Mohan M Prasad

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Monika December 1, 2009 at 5:55 pm

You didn’t say whether or not these meetings are mandatory. If they are, then you should mention that to him. You should also mention to him that things are discussed in these meetings that are relative to his position. His input is needed there. Another method is to sit down with him and let him know that he is, whether he likes it or not, part of a team. As such, part of his job is to attend these meetings. If he retains something or brings something of value, great. If not, that’s is tough luck. He may have been gunning for the position himself, but he needs to suck it up and deal with the hand he’s been chosen. It may be his attitude that’s kept him where he is, or even his willingness to work as a member of a group.

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Steve November 25, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Why not just ask him how seriously he wishes to continue his employment with the firm? This might just get him to understand that this request for him to attend weekly meetings is serious stuff! I would also review his personnel file and check to see just how valuable his services are to the company’s goals and the group’s goals.

Maybe this is the turkey that needs to be roasted this year!

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gohughes November 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm

You did not say if these staff meetings are mandatory or if all the other attendees are in the same capacity as this guy is. Not that any of those things really make a difference if you are his manager. You have to assert yourself and MANAGE. I agree with Marie. Tell him like it is and then dole out the consequences if he does not comply. If you don’t establish your ground rules now you are not going to be able to and the other employees will begin to realize that you are weak and will lose respect for you. Insubordination should not be tolerated.

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