Here’s a recent question from CNN Money:
One of my employees is pretty capable, but she lacks people skills. No one in the office likes dealing with her. Recently she called me at home at 9 P.M. on a Friday, crying and saying she was typing up her résumé because the entire staff was against her.
I listened, and then hinted that it wasn’t the time or place to discuss this. Now office tension is high. Can I tell this woman that, because she said she was updating her résumé, I assume she’s given notice?
That’s a good question but here’s an even better one: if that employee’s behavior is so bad and her social skills so atrocious, why hasn’t the manager reacted a long time ago? This is one of the most important things we have managers for – to make sure that counter-productive behavior in the workplaces is stopped.
I read an interesting quote the other day (though I’ve forgotten where) that said that any behavior by employees that is not stopped by management becomes de facto legal.
Bad behavior includes gossiping, badmouthing co-workers, constant negativity, unconstructive criticisms, bullying, not helping co-workers and not sharing information. If managers see this and do nothing – it’s now OK.
And it shouldn’t be!
One manager from a company I’ve worked with, took this responsibility seriously. One of his employees, a lady in her 50s who’s been with the company for many years, had become habitually negative.
She’d end most phone calls by slamming down the receiver and blurting “Idiot!” whether she’d been talking to a customer or a co-worker. She would criticize all suggestions and plans she was consulted on. Co-workers respected her knowledge and competence but didn’t dare ask her any questions because of her demeanor.
Finally the manager had a meeting with her. He explained exactly how he viewed her behavior and why it was making him and her co-workers unhappy at work. He then gave her the rest of the day off.
When she called in sick the next day, he was pretty sure he was going to lose that employee. She returned to work the day after and asked for a meeting with him. And this is when she amazed him.
She’d spent some time thinking about this and talking to her husband – and she’d come to agree that her behavior had become much too negative. The scary thing is that she hadn’t done any of this consciously – it had become a habit. One she now wanted to break.
She’s been working on it since and both the manager and her co-worker have noticed a marked shift in her behavior. So, by the way, has her husband.
This is exactly how managers should handle this type of situation. Employees who exhibit this type of bad behavior need attention and help to break out of it. If their behavior improves – excellent. Then it’s time to follow up and make sure the change is lasting. If it doesn’t help, then it’s time to fire that person.
Letting people stay in jobs where they don’t fit in, where they’re not happy and where they’re not pulling their weight is a mistake. Managers may think they’re doing them a favor… they’re not!
Remember, just one unhappy, unproductive employee can pull down the whole department. And what’s worse – this attitude is contagious. It spreads and infects others and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a hard-core little clique of dissatisfied, cynical employees who make everyone around them unhappy.
What do you think? Have you seen a manager take responsibility and address bad behavior in employees? Have you seen this behavior ignored and be allowed to spread?