Dealing effectively with problem employees can be hard – and risky.  Courage, judgment and skill are required, and supportive leaders help.  Despite the difficulties, if you want a productive environment, exposing the problem is necessary. Why is it so hard?  Some people would say human nature.  I say fear, training in avoidance, and lack of skill.

To read the rest of this article from the Business First of Columbus, see: Managers must confront manipulative troublemakers

Problem employees can be manipulative masters at ignoring the wishes of their supervisors, using legalistic arguments to defend themselves, pitting fellow employees against one another, spreading gossip and back-stabbing.  They’re harassing, bullying and abusive.  By the time they’re adults, they’ve had a lifetime to practice their techniques.

Our society generally doesn’t train us to be warriors.  We’re trained to play nice; avoid discomfort, fear and conflict; and take the path of least resistance.  Even people who discipline themselves at the refrigerator or gym often avoid looking someone in the eye and saying “That’s not good enough” or “We don’t act like that here.”

Discipline and practice are required to skillfully take on a problem employee.  It may be hard to overcome your hesitation and to value performance more than acting sweetly hypocritical.  So it’s hard.  So what?  It tests your mettle.

Some people think you’re asking a problem employee to change, which may be hard for them.  But that’s only a half-truth.  You’re telling them to make a choice: Change or be gone.  And their degree of difficulty is irrelevant.

Managers often hope to avoid opening emotional Pandora’s Boxes, particularly if they aren’t sure of their leaders’ support.  Executives sabotage themselves and their organizations when they try to avoid recognizing and dealing with problem people.

Imagine you’re a manager assembling a new team and you’ve inherited a manipulative, long-term employee who follows her own agenda, underperforms, gossips, releases confidential material to stir up trouble, creates friction within the team, violates boundaries, feels entitled to do whatever she wants, and yet tries to rally the team against you.  Let’s call her Jane.

See the original article for more details.

Many well-meaning managers give up at this point because their childhood attitudes and rules keep them from making anyone look or feel bad.  Magical thinking makes them try to buy Jane’s loyalty by covering up for her.  The task of rehabilitating someone like Jane seems so huge, managers continue begging, renegotiating agreements and accepting her behavior.

But let’s imagine that you’re made of stronger stuff – and add another complication.  You go to the vice president of Human Resources to ask for advice.  He tells you that’s just the way Jane is and she has said things about you in confidence, he can’t reveal.  His advice: overlook it, stop being so picky and placate Jane because she's upset.

Should you take on Jane and how? The choice is simple and clear: Feel helpless, complain, whine, look the other way and give Jane control of your team or summon courage, fortitude, perseverance and skill to test your company leaders.

Can you succeed? See the original article for more details.

Lessons for executives: These problems won’t resolve themselves favorably if you ignore them.  Don’t make an instant decision to keep the highest-ranking people.  Leaders cowed by difficult people are merely administrators.

Investigate and act with discretion.  Put your stamp on company culture by confronting these situations.  You are announcing who you want to be your followers – the manipulative (mediocre who resist improving) or the above-board (productive who want to be outstanding).

Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement a plan that fits the situation.  To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.