The first choice a manager faces, with any UE, is the choice of whether to try to retain the UE or not. This is a matter that requires careful thinking. After all, you’re weighing the costs and benefits of taking on a major challenge (UE salvage) against the costs and benefits of starting from scratch by finding and hiring a new employee. This decision is a significant one, because UE salvage, if you decide to attempt it, requires that you make a firm and serious commitment to your unmanageable employee’s future.
What!?, you may be thinking. Commit to him? How about “tolerate” him, isn’t that enough? Can’t I just try a few helpful things and see if he gets better? Unfortunately, the answer is no, and here’s why: If you don’t care about your UE, and don’t commit to his professional success, he’s going to know that; and he’ll resist any help that you offer.
Imagine that someone who’s really important to you is having a bad problem — a nasty divorce, a bout with cancer, a car accident, an eating disorder. Do you think, OK, I’ll try a few helpful things, and see if she gets better? Probably not. If you truly care about this person, you’ll probably be committed to doing whatever it takes to help her turn her life around; and a UE salvage operation requires no less. People find it easier to change when they know that the person who’s pushing for change cares about them, and your UE is no exception.
We’ll be honest: you may not like your UE, and you don’t have to. But if you have any thought of trying to bring this employee around to being an asset, you will have to find a way to commit yourself to his professional growth and success. And by the way, even if you commit to your UE in the beginning, you’ll be reaffirming that choice every step along the way. You may find, for example, that your UE agrees there’s a problem, but won’t work with you to solve it. Or that he’s willing to work with you, but not to accept accountability. At every step of The 5Cs, you and the UE must tacitly re-commit to success.