The ‘Problem’ Employee
We see many clients seeking help with a ‘problem’ staff member. The employee is either unproductive, undisciplined, or doesn’t fit the culture and values of the organisation. In the South African Labour Law context managing such an employee can be a challenging process.
Studies have shown that the true cost of a disengaged employee far exceeds the obvious and quantifiable financial cost. Quite simply, one bad egg spoils the batch! The effect of a problem employee on the general morale and productivity of other workers is damaging. Employee disengagement is infectious. Even a single employee not pulling his/her weight puts pressure on other employees to fill the gaps, leading to resentment and burnout.
So What Can (& Should) Be Done?
If you have a ‘problem’ employee it is valuable to consider all the dynamics surrounding the problem. When clients seek advice on how to deal with so called difficult personalities, I start by asking the question; “what is the actual problem?” In many cases the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem. For example, I have seen employees become the problematic in response to poor leadership or other systemic issues within the workplace.
Once the problem has been identified, a solution can be found and the interpersonal relationships and staff morale can be restored. Identifying the actual problem can be tricky though; by the time clients come to us, they are frustrated and concerned about the health of their business and team. They have designated the person as the problem and are fixated on the correctness of their designation, reluctant to see other possibilities. This is a risky position to hold; if the person is not the true problem and the person leaves , within a short space of time, someone else will show up in the role of ‘problem employee’.
“The person is not the problem-the problem is the problem”
What’s the problem?
- Failure to delegate: when managers are unable or unwilling to delegate, employees are left feeling mistrusted and frustrated. This is a two-fold problem; firstly employees feel as though they are not trusted enough to handle tasks, and secondly their manager becomes so busy (doing their work) that there is no time for constructive leadership. Connection is lost between the leader and the team. A good leader delegates well and checks in regularly with the team, knowing that their morale improves when they accomplish tasks.
- Overcompensating and enabling behaviour within a team: when employees have poor boundaries within a team and cannot say no, they will often take on the work of lower performing team members. Over time this leads to resentment and stress in the ‘good’ employee, who may even become ill as a result of burnout. Moreover, the lower performing employee is allowed to get away with the poor performance. Other team members observe the pattern and themselves become infected by the resentment. A leader who is aware of these dynamics in the team will nip it in the bud quickly and support healthy boundaries between team members.
- More insidiously, unchecked discrimination (gender, race, religion, sexual orientation) within a team lead to people feel excluded and ultimately disengaged. Leaders must have sensitivity towards all the biases that may show up in the team and be equipped to address them swiftly.
- Unscrupulous leadership: I have seen situations where a problem employee has been labelled as such owing to their refusal to accept the leadership of a manager who displays underhanded or dishonest behaviours. These may not even be large scale corruption, yet the impact is as severe. Even seemingly minor transgressions such as submitting embellished expense claims will leave a bitter taste and cause disengagement within a team. This is an area that needs immediate and swift intervention.
The Importance of Distance
By the time frustrations have piqued and morale has plummeted, it is difficult to step back and take an objective view of the situation. Here the services of a consultant or coach are valuable. A coach holds the space that the client knows their business best yet in the moment, cannot see all that needs to be seen. By asking the right questions the coach is able to support the client to see other possibilities and solutions. In this way the coach empowers the client to identify the real problem, and the best possible solutions.
What if the person IS the problem?
There are of course times when the person is the problem. By exploring all the other possible options first, the coach and the client can be sure that the course of action to be taken is the correct one and should disciplinary procedures be invoked, there will be no backlash.
crAzy™ always wins pty ltd
At crAzy™ always wins we take a systemic view of any problem that is brought to us. Out coaches and consultants are highly skilled in the art of objectively assessing & analysing a business, its dynamics and interactions and providing insight, processes and strategies to create maximum effectiveness within a business. Whether it is a Human Resources, Labour Relations, Sales & Marketing, Business Growth or Strategy related conundrum, our systems approach allows us to design a comprehensive solution that will not only provide a return on your investment in the short term, but will be sustainable in the long term. Our coaches provide high quality leadership coaching as well as group & team coaching to restore motivation and productivity.
Do you have a “problem”? Call the crAzy™ crew today, the problem may not be what you think it is!