Stay calm to subdue a standoffish malcontent

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Recently, a manager wrote for advice on how to get a stubborn employee to take responsibility for his actions. This worker sows conflict among his peers and thrives on foiling the manager’s attempts to lift team morale.

The solution involves more listening and less lecturing. Always ask questions to engage a troublemaker.

Yet this manager couldn’t get a discussion going because the employee refused to answer simple questions such as, “What would make you happy here?”

How should a manager react when greeted with an employee’s cold silence?

Wait 10 seconds. If you still don’t get an answer, repeat the question in a non-confrontational tone. Maintain a pleasant demeanor to show you’re unruffled.

Still flummoxed after asking the question twice? Try one last time. If the employee continues the silent treatment, speak up.

“I’m not sure what would make you happy,” you can say. “You haven’t answered my question. But I can tell you that your behavior is both limiting my options and limiting your career here.”

When you use a phrase such as “limiting your career,” you subtly convey that the employee is treading on thin ice. If the standoffish behavior persists, ratchet up your wording to “endangering your career” or “jeopardizing your future here.”

The key is to start gently and give the individual every opportunity to cooperate. Admit that’s your strategy—to conduct a conversation and learn from each other. If you continue to hit a wall, move incrementally from expressing mild concern to issuing dire warnings.

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