Employee Refusing Instructions and Verbal Abuse

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about disgruntled employee: She has challenged me at every corner, saying that was not the way the previous manager had required–regardless of the fact that the previous manager was fired because she failed to complete her duties–and flat out refuses to do as I ask.

I have recently been promoted to a management position where I am the supervisor to two other employees who were formally my same-level co-workers. One employee expressed interest in being promoted (prior to my promotion) and has given me an extremely difficult time in the transition from her peer to her supervisor. She has challenged me at every corner, saying that was not the way the previous manager had required–regardless of the fact that the previous manager was fired because she failed to complete her duties–and flat out refuses to do as I ask.

I have discussed this with my District Manager and she recently sent out a formal email stating that I am the manager in charge and my employees are to do as I instruct them to. I have had an issue with this same employee on tardiness. She constantly shows up 15-60 minutes late, even when she has to open the store. I have stressed the importance of arriving on time and that arriving on time is an employment requirement. Still, she continues to be late.

Today she was late and called me 35 minutes prior to her shift starting and expects that because she gave me a “heads up” there should not be any consequences. In addition, there has been instances where she calls me saying she is at the store when, in fact, she is not. I have had to change the policy on the opening procedures for everyone because of the lies this particular employee has said. Company policy states that whenever you are more than 15 minutes late, it is an automatic write-up. After the second write-up on the same topic, it is grounds for termination. I had given her two write-ups tonight and said I had grounds for a third for her conduct (lying to me about being at the store when she was not), but I decided that two was enough and I would just give a formal warning.

Prior to the write-ups she told me that she “Doesn’t give a f*ck if I am the manager” and that she “Never wants to talk to me again”. She had also called me a “f*cking bitch” in front of customers. Later tonight I find that she has been posting on a social media sight saying, “Karma will come around for you bitch. Enough with the power trip” and has since been messaging employees from other stores talking about our issues. I haven’t had any issues with my other employee. I think she may be jealous and resentful to have me as her supervisor when she feels she should have received the promotion.

Since I am a relatively new manager, I have never had to terminate an employee before. To me, this behavior seems like ground for termination. She has called me a bitch multiple times, lied to me, refuses to take any direction, shows up late for work, and has stated that she has no interest in resolving our issues. I am trying to decide if I should ask my DM for approval on her termination or if I should try and have her transferred. With the transfer, I am concerned about what could come of her toxic view of me. Besides, I feel as though opting for a transfer instead of a termination would be send the message that I approve of this type of behavior–which I certainly do not.

Signed, Out of Patience

DearĀ Out of Patience:

We’re a workplace communications site rather than an HR site, but it’s obvious that communications has broken down dramatically in your workplace, so perhaps we can share some thoughts that will let you move forward and eliminate the unpleasantness that is now happening. It sounds as though you have tolerated more than most managers would have. The employee seems to not be very concerned about her job or about losing it. It also appears that your company policy as well as reasonableness would say that her actions fall into the category of meriting dismissal.

Here are some ways for you to consider it:

1. Is the employee ABLE to perform and behave correctly? It sounds as though she is, since the problems aren’t related to learning to do the job, but rather to complying with policy.So, apparently she is simply not WILLING to perform and behave correctly.

2. Do you think it is likely that she will change her feelings about you or improve her performance and behavior significantly? I don’t think that is going to happen, especially not given that she would have to back down appreciably to do so.

3. If she continues her unwillingness to do work the right way and if she continues to dislike you, could she harm the business? It seems apparent she can. In fact, she probably already has, if she has had an altercation with you in front of customers.Based on those three things, if you think she is past being able to be counseled into better behavior, resolve the problem sooner rather than later to avoid even worse damage to the business and the workplace. When things are this bad, the earlier you do something about it, the easier it is on everyone.Consider sending a memo to your manager. Start it by saying that you would like her assistance in resolving the serious chronic problem that “Mary” has become. Develop a list of the things she has done and the effect her actions have had on work or how they have violated a policy or rule. Mention everything that concerns you and leads you to believe Mary can’t be depended upon as a employee.Then, you could say that as unpleasant as it is to consider, it seems there is no other way to improve the workplace, other than to replace her.

I think it would be good to say that you had considered asking to have her transferred, but are asking for dismissal because you’re concerned that she doesn’t have the best interests of the business at heart and could sabotage the efforts of you and others no matter where she is. Then, let your manager help you make the final decision about it, rather than having it all be on your shoulders. She can also help you know what paperwork is required and how to go about handling it.I would remiss if I didn’t warn you to be cautious about what this employee might do if she’s very angry. I think it would be best if your manager was present when you tell the employee she is being dismissed, but that might not be possible. At least make sure the other non-problematic employee is in the general area, so she can verify your behavior and the behavior of the problem employee. The bottom line is that you are correct in thinking there is a serious problem with the behavior and performance of the employee and that it isn’t likely to get better. Perhaps if given a choice, she would quit before being fired. But, however it is done, you need to have an employee you can depend upon, which means the problem employee needs to be removed and replaced.Best wishes to you about this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.