My Surbodinate Was Acting in My Position

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a difficult older subordinate:

I am currently working as a Manager in a new company. My subordinate, who is older than me by six years, does not like me. I learned that before I was appointed to this position, she was acting manager; however, she was not kept on as manager due to lack of qualifications needed and experience required. She does not communicate with me; even when I send her emails she does not respond. I always have to follow up verbally on the emails. She says bad things about management that makes me feel bad about myself. She never submits her work in time and does not even bother to explain why. She comes late to work and takes leave in between. I tried to give her time to heal but I think it’s more personal. I get strange calls when she is away from work . One day she told me that she was trying to call me to let me know that she is sick and not coming to work, but she said she could not hear me. She was lying as she did the same thing again and could hear her breathing. She is currently on a disciplinary hearing due to being caught with my other subordinate for having sex in the ladies toilets at work. Her behaviour is bad and I don’t know how to confront her about it.

Signed, Manager with a Problem Employee

Dear Manager with a Problem Employee:

The reason you are a manager is to coordinate subordinates’ work, and apparently you have an employee who is not cooperating. How do you confront her?

Before you do, analyze what of her assignments are and aren’t done. Recall them as specifically as possible and log those that occur from now on. Note their dates and what you’ve done to alert her of them such as you emails, and had to do because she did them incorrectly or failed to do them. List absences and failure to complete work on time. Also note other behavior that troubles you such as her “bad things about management.”Also, review your own manner of managing.

My associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, says there are three indicators of being of influence in a workplace, and you can see them in her most recent answer to a question and I am including here those three with her one sentence introduction: “I often mention the three things it takes to have influence and to develop strong positioning in a group or organization:* You must be credible. You should possess the level of knowledge and skills appropriate for the situation. The more the better, if it’s used in a positive way. ** You must be valuable. People have to feel there is a good reason to link with you and to support you. Usually value has to do with what you can do for them or how they feel when they are around you. If it’s a pleasure, they’re more likely to support you and be influenced by you.

*** You have to communicate effectively, directly and appropriately. The things that people notice are facial expressions, tone of voice and content. Make it a point to have a brief conversation with as many people as possible every day. Just brief conversation about work or the success of their work or your work with them. ” I mention these because they can serve as criteria for your own behavior and of this problem-employee.

With this in mind and the data you have logged, schedule a time-out session with her. Since you are in a new company, it would be wise to apprise your own boss of the poor behavior of this individual and that you are scheduling a confrontation with her. Your boss might join you for such a meeting because she already is has a disciplinary hearing and this meeting is another step that could lead firing her. If you are male it would be wise to have another individual in on a closed door meeting with this woman.

Additionally it would be wise to obtain from personnel and/or Human Resources this new company’s disciplinary protocol if you are not yet familiar with it. This will inform you of what are the steps required for discipline and discharge. Knowing protocol and policy regarding superior/subordinate counseling and discipline will guide how to conduct this session. My inclination is to begin with an upfront statement as to the purpose of this meeting, such as: “Sally, I’ve schedule this meeting because your performance is not satisfactory. Is there anything you would like to say about that.” Probably she will respond defensively and possibly with accusations about your failures. However, you should shift to her performance with a statement, “You no doubt have opinions about how I should manage better that we can discuss later, but this session is to learn if you are willing to improve your performance; absences, failure to complete assignments on time, badmouthing management, and lack of response to my effort to communicate with you. She may again argue about these matters, but the session should evolve to a plan for what is required for her.

Hopefully she will buy in to a list of what she will do to prove she should keep her job. These should be listed. Also you should schedule time for review of her performance within two or three weeks. A report of this meeting should be put in your file. My suggestions, of course, are made not knowing the culture of your workplace and country. I hope they serve as guidelines on how to respectfully and forthrightly handle a difficult confrontation with this employee. Please share how your confrontation goes and what results, either good or bad. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is the way I close my advice. This is my way of saying constructive action of a boss and the bossed both are required to make a workplace employee-productive and successful.

William Gorden