Emplyee Sabotage

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about employees deficient skills:

I have two employees who do not adapt well to change. One has limited socials skills and is abrasive. The other has great social skills outside of the department but is whiny and makes every effort to undermine me, mostly when I have given a directive that prevents her from campaigning for her next position. Neither of them like the fact that I was hired as a manager from outside of the organizations because I did not hold the entry level role they currently hold. I have never had a problem providing or getting an answer to any question they have presented as it relates to our product or service. If not for the negative behavior both would be stars. Other team members have started to complain about them. What do I need to do to save my team?

Signed, Could Be Stars

Dear Could Be Stars:

Could be stars or meteors? The “Employee Sabotage” title you have given to your question sums up your feeling that two employees have made “every effort to undermine me”, but you have not provided any tangible evidence of that. This is a serious charge and should be investigated.

They should be confronted and disciplinary procedures should be taken if you can document instances of where they have lied, intentionally destroyed products and/or badmouthed you. In short, you describe them as enemies who dislike you and are out to destroy you. That may be true or it may be only a feeling you have because you sense they think they should have gotten the job you have. Rather, if you are just using dramatic language to describe your feeling, you need to cool your rhetoric.

I’ll assume that their “abrasive” behavior shows up as uncooperative to coworkers and to you as dislike of or lack of enthusiasm about assignments. With this in mind, here are several thoughts to consider:

1. Is your use of the team metaphor real and meaningful? Do you frequently convene your work group as you would a sports team after and before a game? After a game, coaches review and praise what went well and they detail what might be done to prevent mistakes. Before a game, coaches have skull sessions to discuss strategy and how players are to interact. How might the team metaphor be made real with your work group?

2.  Have you convened your work group to make explicit do and don’t communication rules, such as do ask what and why questions for clarification, do listen and don’t interrupt, don’t gossip to others about one’s teammates, don’t roll your eyes as though you think someone is stupid, don’t talk mean, swear, or yell, do check in with the coach to consult about assignments, do what you can to make each others’ work effective and easier, etc. The very act of collaboratively spelling out the rules creates standards and goals for performance. Reviewing and revising those rules from time to time makes them live.

3. Might it change the antagonistic boss-bossed relationship with those you manage if you took a genuine interest in learning and supporting their career direction? Performance reviews and informal conversations, if focused on career goals, can make a difference between those who give and are involved in them.

4.  Have you and your work group taken time out to see how your commitment to the customers benefits its bottom line? How will cutting wasted supplies, time, money and improving quality pay off? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of suggesting that if you can focus on the over-arching mission of your workplace, ego will be enriched by interdependent-mindedness. Do any of these thoughts make sense or prompt ones that you think are more applicable to the question you have sent?

William Gorden