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What to do about THAT employee!

What to do about THAT employee!

You know the one I mean…technically skilled and hard to work with. The same conversation happens every year at his performance review…he does the technical work well and is prickly with other people. As his boss you are constantly fielding complaints and may sometimes give him feedback. It’s hard to do though…after all, he gets defensive or aggressive and the conversation is uncomfortable and nothing changes. According to him it’s someone elses fault that the relationship is rocky, and maybe even because you’re such a lousy manager. Have you had  these kinds of employees? Do you wonder what to do about them?

I’m using the term “him” in the article but this also happens with women employees

Here are some ideas to deal with THAT employee…

  1. Get his attention: Under no circumstances give him an “Exceeds” or a “Fully Satisfactory” at his annual performance review. Ensure he gets the message that Business as Usual is not acceptable. Your high performers are both technically skilled AND easy to work with. Hold the annual raise or bonus or interesting project until behavior improves.
  2. Gather some data from people who work with Mr. Hard-To-Get-Along-With. Some managers are skilled in this, and most are not. A consultant can be used for this part of the process…
    •  One effective way is to gather feedback from people who work with him (peers, internal clients, other managers etc.) about his strengths, areas for development, impact of his behavior on the department and the company etc.. This method focuses on the problem area and the impact of it on the employee, department and company.
    • A second way is to use a good 360 degree assessment tool and gather feedback from the same people as above. This method will cover the problem area (it usually shines a bright light on the problem area) and in addition cover all aspects of leadership. This is the preferred method for a long term development plan. I recommend and use the Leadership Circle Profile.
  3. Give feedback. Using a skilled consultant (who is not his boss) reduces the emotion. Many employees think their poor performance review is because their boss doesn’t like them, and resist feedback because of that. When the feedback is all about “the data” and what they hear comes from several people with a similar message…they are more likely to “get it”.
  4. Have a series of coaching sessions to work through the data and the resistance, and to work on building new, productive, behaviors. Often it doesn’t take many sessions to get the employee back on track.
  5. The manager follows up with monitoring and feedback.
  6. IF significant progress has been made and sustained, consider a raise or bonus.
  7. Give yourself a reward. This is one of the toughest management problems to have and solve.

David Green

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