Employees from Hell, for the most part, aren?t just crazy people that you had the misfortune to hire at a weak moment. Nor are most of them just naturally disgruntled people. History has repeatedly shown that, as an environment changes, so do the people in it. Put a typically good person in a bad environment, and that person?s behavior will begin to deteriorate. Put a typically bad person in a good environment, and that person?s behavior will begin to improve. My experience has been that most people in this world are pretty decent. Sure, some are a little louder, some are a little more aggressive, and some are a little stranger, but most people seem to make an effort to get along. We just have to make sure that we have the right conditions to facilitate playing nicely together.
So, before we begin to examine the employees, let?s take a look at what?s going on around them that could be contributing to their unProductive or counterProductive behavior. It?s an important exercise. We want to make sure that we?ll be solving a problem instead of just masking symptoms. Like a doctor doing a diagnosis of a patient with a sore throat, you first want to find out what?s causing the problem. A throat lozenge may ease the pain temporarily, but, if the root of the problem is something more serious, antibiotics or some other form of treatment may be required. As in medicine, in a business environment, failure to address the direct cause can have serious and unpleasant repercussions.
To determine if an employee?s negative behavior stems from his own personal quirks, or is a symptom of something more systemic, you have to examine a few things. You have to look at the environment. You have to look at yourself as a manager. You have to look at his expectations of you and the company, how reasonable those expectations are, and the degree to which they are being met. Why did the employee choose to work for your company in the first place? What roles does he expect you and your company to play in the employee?employer contract? You may have some pretty clear expectations of what you want from him, but what does he expect from you?
Let?s begin by examining why your employees chose to work for your company in the first place. People choose a place of work for many different reasons: salary and benefits, proximity to home, the types of Products and services the company is involved in, the employee?s area of expertise, and the working environment, to name just a few. In many cases, your company became the company of choice simply because you were the first to hire them.
These criteria play a large role in employee expectations. An employee who gets a sizable raise still may not be happy if her job isn?t challenging or within her area of expertise. A change in location can be a hardship for someone used to walking to work. An additional week?s vacation instead of a raise may mean nothing to the employee facing tuition for a child?s university education. A shift to lower?profile projects can be perceived as thwarting an employee?s opportunities for advancement.
The president of an automotive aftermarket company once told me of the time he tried to lighten the load of an overworked vice?president by transferring some of the VP?S responsibilities to another department. As it turned out, his attempt to do something positive for a valued employee backfired. The VP became distraught, thinking that the move was a reflection of the president?s confidence in him, and almost quit the company.
The expectations that employees have of your company will vary based on the nature of their work and their positions within the company. A senior executive, for example, likely expects an office with a window, a nice desk, a comfortable chair, guest chairs, a coffee table, etc. A miner working a mile below the surface, on the other hand, has quite different expectations. He might expect ready availability of emergency oxygen, up?to?date equipment, and cold water. The senior manager expects from her boss latitude to make decisions and take action. The miner expects clear direction and a fair workload.