Give Thanks for Manageable Employees!

This is the time of year when we give thanks for everything that makes life worthwhile — family, friends, food, shelter, and for those of us who are lucky enough to have it, work that we enjoy and find fulfilling.

So — while most of our Thanksgiving celebrations are family- or community-centric — this is also a good time to think about, and hopefully give thanks for, what our colleagues and employees add to our lives.  While every employee can potentially contribute to the growth and well-being of an organization, some require an extra effort on the part of the management to be their best.

Turning UEs into Members of the Team

What can turn UEs into friendly team workers?  Thanksgiving shows the way.

Acknowledge and appreciate:   It never hurts to acknowledge good work.  Managers tend to ignore the employee who’s doing good work (after all, she’s just doing her job, right?) and focus instead on the “squeaky wheel” of unmangeability.  But this unbalanced approach can leave your best employees feeling underappreciated, and overlooked.

Instead of taking good work for granted, look for things the your employees are doing right, and positively acknowledge their performance.

Be specific and objective:  When you set out to acknowledge good work, be specific about who you’re appreciating, and why.  Speak directly to that one employee who excelled, not to a group of people.  And give specifics about his performance of a particular task.  This is very different from giving undifferentiated praise (“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!”), which lacks credibility because it is generic, vague, and subjective.  Specific acknowledgements will motivate your employees; generic praise will not.

Just do it:  Don’t worry about how you show your appreciation.  There is no need for your appreciative gesture to be grand or elaborate.  Your best move is to acknowledge you employee with a brief, face-to-face comment, but it’s also fine to communicate by voice mail, email, or even text.  The main thing is, as soon as you observe something positive,  go ahead and acknowledge it.

Acknowledgments Build Trust, and Performance

Your timely acknowledgement and appreciation will remain etched in your employee’s mind and make their Thanksgiving season even more memorable.

And best of all, once you start making regular acknowledgments, you’ll be giving thanks for the benefits of having a happier and more manageable staff.

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Where Did All These UEs Come From??

We Often Hire People Like Us

"Miss Gaines, send in someone who reminds me of myself as a lad."

Sometimes, You Feel Surrounded!

As you look around your organization, you may be wondering how the UEs that you observe slipped through the hiring process.

Or perhaps you’re a hiring manager who wants to avoid unknowingly bringing a UE on board.

Since managers are human, they often, awarely or unawarely, bring their own attitudes and personal preferences into the hiring and firing process.  This can lead to (you guessed it) hiring or retaining a UE.

Watch Our for These Pitfalls When Hiring

Considerations of Race and Ethnic Background:  As the New Yorker cartoon above suggests (“Miss Gaines, send me someone who reminds me of myself as a lad”), hiring managers can be influenced, consciously or not, by demographics.  Professor Miller McPhearson, a sociologist at University of Arizona, notes that these factors are just a small fraction of the many irrelevant considerations such as weight, physical appearance, and dressing style that influence hiring decisions.

Interfolio, a Washington D.C. consulting group that helps universities hire the best teaching staff, recommends diversifying your hiring team to minimize the impact of these factors.  They also counsel their higher ed clients to leave sufficient time for hiring decisions.  That’s because, under time constraints, we are all more likely to fall back on habitual (and sometimes prejudicial) judgments.  Even spending a few extra minutes with candidates who are not “like us” can open the door to a more impartial evaluation of what they bring.

Favoritism from the Boss:  If a job candidate can develop a strong rapport with his hiring manager or future boss, he is often given preferential treatment.  This person can easily morph into a UE who’s retained because the boss likes him, no matter how much trouble he’s creating for others.  In his book, The No Asshole Rule, Stanford Business School Professor Bob Sutton explains how costly a boss’s unfounded favoritism can be for your entire organization.

Here is where checks and balances in the hiring process pay off.  You, or whoever’s doing the hiring, should be able to solidly explain why a particular candidate is right for a job in your organization.  Statement like, “She’s a great person,” or “I really liked his attitude” are red flags unless they’re backed up by  other, substantive reasons.

“You Pays Your Money and You Takes Your Chances”

As hard as we try, it’s not always possible to weed out potential UEs in advance.  Mistakes do get made.  And sometimes, changing conditions in your organization reveal behavior problems that couldn’t have been anticipated.

If you find yourself managing a UE, it’s natural to wish that someone, anyone, had screened her out before she was hired.

Take a minute to be upset, and then turn to The 5Cs to help you move forward.

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Anger Management: How to Handle an Angry UE

No matter what form workplace anger takes—from abusive language to sexual harassment to physical violence—anger creates an untenable atmosphere for everyone.

While many organizations take the early signs of anger (and related behaviors like bullying, retaliation or rudeness) seriously, others take a “wait and see” attitude, to their peril.

Things Won’t “Take Care of Themselves”

Whether your organization is big or small, it’s important to note every instance of angry behavior, and take action before things escalate into a full-blown crisis.  Here are some of the MTU techniques that will help you manage an angry employee:

  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards angry behavior, and make that policy explicit.  Put it in your employee manual, if your organization has one.  Write it down and circulate it.  Use different communications channels (email, voice announcements, etc.) to reinforce the message at least six times.
  • Build and encourage an environment that promotes creativity, freedom of speech, and openness.
  • If appropriate, create alternative ways for employees to vent their frustrations, such as town hall meetings.
  • When dealing with a known UE, document his or her behavior before you attempt to talk with them about it (that’s Step 2 of The 5Cs, Communicate).

Your Safety Comes First

Remember that your objective in dealing with an angry employee is not to change his or her personality, but to ensure that your UE does not act out their anger at work.  And, as we note in Managing the Unmanageable, don’t EVER put yourself at physical risk.  If you have the slightest doubt about confronting (or even speaking to) an angry UE, heed your instincts and pass this problem to HR, your higher-ups, or security.

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A New UE: The Retaliator

Retaliators are a Type of Unmanageable Employee

Ragan Communications’ HR newsletter reports that retaliation at the workplace is a rising problem.

Although we discuss many unmanageables in our book, The Retaliator isn’t among them.

Have you had trouble with this type of UE?  Which of The 5Cs do you think would be most effective in dealing with them?


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5 Co-Workers + 1 Great Slide Show!

Baseline Mag's "Deaing with Difficult Co-Workers"

In the latest from Managing the Unmanageables‘s “Department of Why Didn’t We Do That?” we love how Baseline Magazine‘s Dennis McCafferty has brought five  unmanageable co-workers to life in a delightful slide show.

Want to cope with The Grumbler, Slacker, Excuse-Maker, Wallflower, or “Subtle Jerk”?  Check out Dennis’s terrific guide to dealing with difficult colleagues.

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