Most workers are fairly easy to manage: They understand that if they don’t get their jobs done they could ultimately be replaced. That’s a concept easily grasped. And they’re sharp enough to link their performance with raises, bonuses and other goody-bag perks, like being able to work from home now and then. They balance competitiveness with civility and usually avoid making a lot of trouble for you.
But every workplace has one employee-maybe two, or even more-who is downright difficult to manage. Not through a lack of productivity, but through a personality that makes a boss wonder why he or she became or wants to remain a boss for much longer.
Here they are:
The entitled. This type comes in two varieties: (1) Those who believe that their skills, knowledge or mere presence are an absolute necessity to the survival of the organization; and (2) those who have been there so long that they think they’ve earned the right do things on their own terms. With either prima donna, you have an employee who can quickly douse workplace morale. As uncomfortable as this might be, you need to crack down on this person. Your reputation as an effective boss rides heavily on it. With No. 1, hand out a few rote, low-level, must-do assignments to bring him or her back to Earth. With No. 2, hand out a few rote, low-level, must-do assignments to show that you’re still their boss. Rote, low-level, must-do assignments work.
The connected. Unlike the entitled, the connected pull their strength not from their misguided thoughts, but from someone above your head. For whatever reason, they are liked and protected. It’s not so bad when these employees are productive, but that’s seldom the case. Other employees are keenly aware of the corporate umbilical cord and look for you to at least try to cut it. Document shortcomings for these employees. You might be surprised that your boss will support you when you produce the evidence of a genuine poor performer. The CFO’s allegiance to one of your subordinates may not be as strong as you imagine.
The self-absorbed. The saving grace when it comes to this type is that they are for the most part productive; the downside is that their productivity stays in their own sphere. These folks are not team players and rarely make an overture to help anyone else or see collaboration as a positive thing. Ideas are there but are hoarded, and contributions at meetings are zilch. Such a person may have low confidence and a high need for recognition. Give it to them, and help them to share their “wealth” with others. There’s an ego at play here.
The rabble-rouser. Otherwise known as the office gossip, naysayer, fault-finder and comedian (at the company’s expense, of course). This person has a magnetic personality that attracts disillusioned co-workers and other misplaced bullies. Levity is one thing, but you need to move in fast to stop the rabble-rouser from forming a destructive peanut gallery that thinks everything is a joke: the organization, the policies, their co-workers and yes, you.
Now isn’t that enough to make you want to turn around and show them who’s boss?
Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.