In your mind, employees “from hell” can be poisoning your world and putting your business at risk. If it turns out they are not evil, dim-witted, or insane, then you may have a great shot at dealing with them.
ANSWER #1. You might be the problem. Let’s face it, you might not be judging them fairly. I remember an employee I’ll call Bob, for example.
Bob was a negative guy. Nobody around him followed the rules well enough and he complained constantly. He sent e-mails about rule infractions to the highest levels in the company, added a few voice mails, and sang the same song in public meetings.
For me, Bob was a pain – rigid, judgmental, bossy, uptight, and just plain mean. I got a stomach ache whenever he came around.
Now Bob had a Gold personality style. Golds care about rules, stability, responsibility, and doing the right thing. One day it dawned on me that Bob’s motives might be pure and, to him, correct in every way.
He did not mean to hurt people or poison the atmosphere. In fact, he just wanted to work in a place where he could trust and depend on others. To Bob, breaking rules was a form of lying, destroying trust, and making him nervous about loyalty. He demanded high standards for himself and projected that onto his coworkers.
So what’s the ah-hah moment here? Don’t judge right away. Look to the positive motivations behind a person’s frustrating behavior. Look for what’s strong and good about the person underneath. Wouldn’t you want others to do the same for you?
ANSWER #2. Identify the “problem” and coach the employee. Yeah, looking for the “good” in everybody is fine but you’re probably thinking I’m living in Lah-Lah Land, right? Come on now – Bob is still a pain, and those “coworkers” avoided him like the plague.
And that’s correct. People think he’s a jerk. So what do you?
You have business reasons to confront the employee. People don’t feel good around Bob. They don’t go near him. Some jobs might not be getting done. Some people are not communicating well. That’s hurting business.
Invite the employee in for a private meeting. Tell him what the meeting is about. Show respect by acknowledging what the employee cares about. When the person is Gold, especially acknowledge him for his responsibility and hard work.
Talk next about your own responsibilities to the company and to all the employees. You need harmony, good communication, high energy and – most of all – high production. Tell the employee these goals are in trouble.
Ask for the employee’s help. Bob, for example, is not wrong about the rule infractions he is witnessing. Tell him what’s wrong is that the employees see him as a cop instead of a coworker and that gets in the way of teamwork. Ask Bob’s help to curb his public complaints and, instead, make them private. For more serious problems – theft for example – go to the company officer who can do something about it. Again, if you’re dealing with a Gold person, you have an employee who respects the company chain of command.
Appeal to the employee’s strengths. Returning to Bob, ask him to be responsible for himself most of all, to focus on what he can control himself, and to concern himself with other people’s business when it’s very, very important. Finally, Bob surely wants to be part of a functioning team, so encourage him to lighten up, stop obsessing on past actions, and position himself as the responsible and respected leader that he probably aspires to be.
Every single one of your employees wants respect. So find out what their true values are. Change how you talk to them so they see you are tuned into their strengths, needs, and values. Finally, ask them to do the same thing: find out about the values of fellow employees. Change their language and actions so that others be able to tune into the message because it feels respectful and demonstrates understanding.
Do YOU have employees-from-hell stories to share? If so, please comment on this blog entry. And thank you.