Hot Button Employee Issue #3: The Skater

For nearly three years, Tracy has been a wallflower. An employee who stands on the sidelines, does enough to not be recognized as a poor performer, but not quite enough to be praised and acknowledged. And she’s happy with that. She comes to work, does only what is expected, and heads home. Not having any stressors or responsibility at work is what she wants; an easy job that requires little effort and pays the bills. She has no desire to step up and participate in new projects or cross-training, and just wants to continue gliding along.

Tracy was a skater. We run across these types of employees in nearly every industry. The ones who do the bare minimum to meet expectations and not get into trouble, and are just biding their time until the next payday. They aren’t highly motivated, and lack a plan or a purpose in their career. This month we have been discussing how to remedy common “Hot Button Employee” types, including the employee who is always absent, and the know it all employee. How do you manage a skater?

Hold Employees Accountable – Some employees will simply never step up to the plate. By holding each member of your team accountable for responsibilities that are constantly new and changing, you will prevent stagnation and burnout. Additionally, encourage your team members to work out issues with accountability amongst one another which further builds a strong team dynamic.

Encourage Engagement – As a manager, it is your job to keep your employees motivated and engaged, as difficult as that may be at times. Three rules for encouraging effective motivation and engagement are: never ask others to do what you wouldn’t do yourself; provide your employees with feedback; and, encourage discussions about the good and bad aspects of their job.

Praise a Job Well Done – Particularly for those who are unmotivated, recognition is a huge deal. Praise your employees both publicly and in private and they will be motivated to repeat and build on their moment of excellence. All the perks in the world cannot make an employee feel as good as genuine praise and acknowledgment.

We have all experienced a Tracy, and frankly many of us have been in that type of position. Skater’s are in no way self-starters and most teams need go-getters to do their part in encouraging engagement and motivation. These employees will slip through the cracks if you let them, so be proactive with nipping mediocre behavior in the bud before it becomes a more serious issue.

Hot Button Employee Issue #2: The “Know it All”

Scott and Peter have been working together in the risk management department at their software company for the past few years. As the “go to” guys when it comes to any questions pertaining to security or technology, the two of them are expected to work together as a team as each brings a unique set of skills to the group. However, Scott who had been working at the organization for a few years before Peter came on board has a bit of an ego. Scott is what can be described as the “know it all” employee. He is always the first to jump in to answer questions or emails (obnoxiously so) and gets incredibly upset when Peter makes discretionary decisions without asking or consulting with him first, even though there is no supervisory relationship. Scott frequently talks over Peter, interrupts him in team meetings, and is very territorial over “his domain.” The building tension in the department has started to affect other employees and creates uncomfortable and awkward situations on a daily basis.

We all know a Scott. The “one upper,” the “know it all.” Individuals with this kind of personality are prevalent in grade school and in the professional workforce. How do you deal with an employee who interacts with others in such a way? How do you nip this behavior in the bud before it creates a hostile environment?

Mentoring and Coaching – As a manager, giving ongoing feedback is part of your job. If their behavior is creating an uncomfortable work atmosphere and is negatively affecting their coworkers and colleagues, it is your responsibility to let them know that their actions need to change. Encourage camaraderie with teammates and reiterate that their individual success relies on the success of the group, requiring a willingness on their part to consider and hear the views and suggestions of their peers.

Let the Issue Go – If the problem employee is being possessive or territorial over something that isn’t critical or imperative to the successful operation of your team/department, consider letting the issue go (e.g., pick your battles). Often times this type of individual has either a blown-up ego, so not playing into their antics and ignoring their behavior can be the best course of action.

Persuade Alternatives – In situations in which your know it all is completely in the wrong, ignoring their behavior is not the route you want to go. A way to effectively manage their behavior in such a way that doesn’t create animosity is to present alternatives to the problem by asking questions such as “Have you ever considered…” or “What if…” which allows them buy in to a more efficient and correct solution.

Employees who truly believe that they know everything and are in the right 100% of the time are some of the most challenging to deal with. It may seem that no matter how or how often you try to persuade them otherwise, they just aren’t hearing it. Approach them in a non-confrontational manner, in private, encourage positive and genuine communication, and remind them of the end goal to create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive work environment where everyone is given the opportunity to shine.

Hot Button Employee Issue #1: The Absent Employee

Over the past year, Michaela has taken 12 weeks of job-protected maternity leave, 2 weeks of personal leave to care for a sick child, and has just requested a leave of absence for herself to undergo wrist surgery. These larger chunks of leave do not include a day or two of sick time here and there, or the need to stay home or leave work early in the event of an emergency or unexpected event. While she has been predominantly able to cover her leaves with accrued vacation and sick leave, Michaela’s continued absences occasionally causes her to fall behind in work, resulting in her coworkers having to pick up the slack.

An issue that negatively impacts small business owners in particular, absent employees (regardless of whether or not the leave is job-protected) has the potential to disrupt business operations and productivity. While there are many situations that are incredibly unfortunate and outside the employee’s control (such as needing to care for a sick child), a balance between taking care of your employees and ensuring business needs are met has to be a top priority.

Flexible Schedules/Telecommuting – Depending on the situation and the industry, many employees can work from home when they are recovering or temporarily disabled (e.g., a reduced/flexible work schedule). For example, a part-time work from home schedule may be an ideal balance to ensure tasks are completed while providing your employee with the opportunity to take care of themselves or a family member.

Sharing Duties and Workload – Talk with your staff and other members of the department and see if they are able to take on some of the duties while your employee is absent. Having a strong, supportive team at work often means they are willing to step up and help when needed.

Reiterate Expectations – In any instance of excessive time off, regardless the need or reason, it is important to communicate and reiterate company policy. Making certain that your employees are aware of what is expected of them helps hold them accountable and ensures that your generosity is not taken advantage of.

Especially in situations when a key or high performing employee is met with a situation that requires them to take a leave of absence (or multiple), working with them and other members of your team can ensure that business operations are maintained and don’t spiral out of control. Employees are often more than happy to reach a happy medium with you, and your commitment to working with them will in turn ensure loyal, long-term relationships.

Follow along the rest of the month as we discuss two other hot-button issues employers are faced with and present mutually beneficial solutions to those problems.