DTDIY SPECIAL THE 'HOW TO' ISSUE 2012
How to 'Deal with Egoistic Employees'
One of the most critical responsibilities of Managers today is to handle employees that are either demotivated or are disruptive. In both cases, Managers have to do exactly what they refrain from doing – NIP the problem in the bud
Pawan Chabra | Issue Date - 03/02/2012
There are two broad problems that managers face within an organization. The first one is evidenced in poor motivation and performance and the second is evidenced in disruptive behaviours of employees who ruin the work atmosphere through malicious actions, a negative attitude, and gossip. How should managers deal with both and what are the consequences of not doing so?
Once a manager has adequate evidence and reasons to believe that there is a problem with a given employee (s)/he should ask the question: What are the desired behaviours and outcomes I would like to see in the employee? The goal of a managerial intervention must be developmental and constructive. Examples of expected behaviours could include specific suggestions for the employee to show initiative such as through assuming responsibility for specific tasks and functions, mentoring initiatives, job-shadowing, and so forth. Examples of expected outcomes could include the attainment of tangible objectives, specified in terms of time, units and other relevant criteria. It is also important to set stretching goals that are attainable. Managerial intervention is a lot easier when one is prepared and can clearly identify expectations.
While it can be unpleasant to deal with problem employees, you must show the leadership to deal with such issues directly and not palm off the dirty task to others. The old axiom, praise in public but punish or counsel in private, must never be forgotten. Be direct but do not be confrontational or personal. While it is important to provide examples of behaviours and outcomes that were sub-optimal in support of your comments, do remember to focus on some positive elements of their behaviour also. It is extremely important for a manager to listen to the employee’s views during the meeting. Procedural justice and a belief in the employee being taken to task that the manager is acting fairly will largely determine their willingness to improve. Be willing to offer support and mentoring. It is also prudent to set up a follow-up and feedback meeting a few weeks later during the first managerial intervention itself.
A bigger challenge, however, is to deal with employees who display malicious and toxic behaviours. In an interesting and hard hitting essay titled ‘The No Asshole Rule’ published in the Harvard Business Review, Professor Bob Sutton develops the argument that disruptive employees should not be allowed to get away. More importantly, one should not hire such individuals even if they are competent. He uses the example of a department faculty hiring meeting in Stanford University that was discussing a candidate for a faculty position who was extremely talented but known to be a “jerk”. And a senior faculty replied to the effect: “I don’t care if he won the Nobel Prize. I don’t want any assholes ruining our department”. Professor Sutton explains that recognizing such individuals is quite easy: everyone knows who they are and people stop having fun when they are around. Managerial inaction sends a bad message to the rest of the organization.
As Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn explains, management isn’t about doing easy things; it is often about doing things people do not want to do. It is a manager’s responsibility to motivate, empower and offer all the support that employees need to excel. More often than not, core managerial responsibilities include removing hurdles, coaching, mentoring & enabling employees. But occasionally, it also involves being firm and having the capacity to use power in a fair & judicious manner.