Archive for August, 2012

For those of you who have dealt with this situation you know the gut wrenching frustration of trying to figure out what to do when that high performing employee is wrecking havoc in your company.    I’ve often pondered whether learning to manage difficult employees made me a better parent or if being a parent made me better at managing employees.  While I’ve yet to solve that ‘chicken and egg’ question, I have learned much over 24 years of working with and managing employees.  The question that is often at the root of our frustration is whether or not the added cost of managing these difficult yet high performing employees outweighs their benefits.

Studies show that high performing employees often come with difficult personalities creating challenges for their companies and earning ‘special treatment’ in the eyes of coworkers.  Yet the qualities that make some employees difficult also make them successful at their jobs.  Highly driven employees tend to not be so concerned about others.  Detailed oriented employees tend to have aversion to change. Rising to the challenge of managing these difficult high performers takes patience, perseverance and guts; a feat many bosses struggle with.

Bosses can be reluctant to address these high performers difficult behavior for fear of losing the benefit of their high productivity.  As such bosses tend to leave these folks alone and are often unaware of when difficult behavior slips into the realm of unmanageable behavior unless their behavior becomes outrageous or aggressive.

The research is clear:  Managers need assistance in managing their high performing yet difficult employees.  Here are 5 keys to survival when your best employee is your worst employee:

  1.  Don’t avoid them.  Consult with other managers, your boss or other resources then have a one-to-one discussion with the employee about the problem behavior.
  2. Give them clear guidelines.  Most people can absorb and retain about three points at a time.  Your conversation is most powerful when your message is simple. Give the employee 3 guidelines you need them to follow.
  3. Provide them and yourself with training. Learn the unique personality and behavioral traits of the employee. Understand these traits and how to coach to them.  Make yourself available for additional training or provide them with outside training.  Often managers expect employees to ‘just know’ how to execute.  Help them learn how to take action to achieve your desired result.
  4. Monitor progress.  Obtain feedback through a formal review meeting, even if it’s not time for a scheduled review.  Have the employee submit reports on their efforts.
  5. Discipline when needed.  With outrageous behavior, put the employee on probation for a specified amount of time.  Suspend the employee while looking into aggressive behavior.  For serious infractions, terminate the employee immediately, explain the cause and provide pay for any hours already worked.

Companies who work to understand their people – how they think, their natural tendencies and behaviors, and their workplace attitudes – gain a competitive advantage.  Success comes by not only selecting the right people, putting them in the right jobs but also by ensuring they are developed to reach their full potential and managed to support and achieve your company’s objectives.

Nikki Ellison is a business advisor, executive coach and founder of Ellison Partners. Through proprietary skill acceleration programs and assessments Ellison Partners helps businesses achieve results. 

© Nikki Ellison, 2012.

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