Managing workers is a mixed bag. Some hires turn out to be an amazing source of reliability and talent right out of the gate. Still, others need a little bit of refining to realize their best. Before you write off a less-than-stellar performer in search of someone with more substance, remember that today’s extremely low unemployment rate gives workers the upper hand. Use these tips to see if you can take these horror story employees and turn them into that fairy tale ending your business needs to grow.
1. The Blob
There are a number of reasons why a worker might seem lazy or blow off their daily tasks in favor of – anything else. If your team is becoming increasingly less productive, using their desk time to catch YouTube stunts or taking forever at bathroom breaks, you may have an employee that isn’t finding work challenging enough.
Rather than punish these workers or limit their freedom (which will ultimately just cause resentment), consider pulling them into new teams or projects that can benefit from their unique background. While not every employee will take the initiative once given more responsibility, this test will let you see just what your workers are made of, giving you the chance to pull from a fresh pool of workers for a replacement, if needed.
2. The Ghost
Showing up late for work, missing meetings completely, or calling in during important projects are just a few signs that you may have a ghost on your hands. This worker displays “absenteeism,” which is a version of the “presenteeism” shown with the blob – above. This employee, however, doesn’t even feel the need to come to work and goof-off, enjoying time away from the office over wasting it in person.
Your first job is to try to figure out what’s going on with this worker. In many cases, it’s a personal issue that’s holding them back, and you could play an important role in helping resolve the obstacle. Unreliable transportation, sick kids, or struggles with physical or mental health are all legitimate reasons why work could take a backseat to life. Without prying, remind your worker of the benefits offered by the workplace, such as dependent care allowances or family medical leave. While you can’t solve all of the issues that may be going on, knowing that there is an ally at work can be a significant step toward resolution in the life of someone who can’t manage well alone.
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3. The Vampire
If this employee sucks the life and joy out of every meeting they are a part of, you may be looking at a real-life vampire worker. While this person may not intend to bring everybody down, their energy (or lack of) can be contagious, so it’s best to approach the issue head on and try to resolve it quickly. Most vampires (also referred to as “Debbie Downers”) speak in generalizations, claiming that “everything” or “everyone” is a certain way. Try to get at the details behind their complaints; you may find that there is some merit to their concerns that aren’t being communicated well.
If nothing else, this toxic team member may have to be dealt with more harshly. By explaining how their poisonous attitude is sucking the will to work from everyone else, it may be an eye-opener for them. If not, and attempts to resolve the attitude go unheeded, this is exactly the type of employee that shouldn’t hang around too long. Negativity can spread at an alarming rate in the office, and you can’t afford the rest of your workforce to fall victim.
4. The Kraken
Remember the old wives’ tale about the sea monster with really long tentacles? You may have one of these trolling your office floor, getting into everything they can touch. Office busy-bodies can’t seem to keep to their own business, and their many-armed approach to exploring other’s lives and drama can be incredibly distracting to the rest of the workforce. It can also cause the potential for infighting and conflict that can be hard to recover from down the road.
First, remember that, while office gossip can come from a larger, overall sense of dissatisfaction from your employees, there is usually one person who gossips in every part of their lives, and this is just another place for them to turn the screws. If you determine that it really is just one or two lone operators, sit them down and explain the damage they are causing to the work environment, including how gossip can leave them open to HR and legal issues, such as libel, slander, and harassment. In today’s litigious work environment, there’s no wiggle room for attack language or lies that can damage reputations or work morale. Take disciplinary action, as needed, to communicate how serious you are about the issue.
Why Bad Guys Make the Best Good Guys
The larger a company grows, the more likely there will be formal programs in place to address all of these workplace monsters – and many more. Unfortunately, smaller startups are often combining the roles of HR team, middle management, and floor supervisors all in one position, making it increasingly important to recognize these bad players at all levels, in every situation from the lunchroom to the sales floor. As the economy continues to chug along, leaving more positions than workers for some of the already hard-to-fill spots, it will be in your best interest to try to turn these monsters into one of the good guys.
In the end, a converted brand evangelist is still your most enthusiastic and genuine worker. Why not start with your gallery of spooks to find them? For additional tips on conflict resolution and employee morale issues, be sure to check out these morale boosters from the Society for Human Resource Management. (Smoothies, anyone?)
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