In every large organisation, we find some employees who are difficult to deal with. We refer to them as “problem employees”. Problem employees are those who may have a negative attitude toward work or some other trait. This attitude reduces their contribution to an organisation through low productivity. If such employees work in a group, they damage the morale of the group. Sometimes, we may consider such employees problematic but, in reality, they may have a legitimate reason for their frustrations. Sometimes, such frustrations may not be related to the job, but may be related to their personal lives. In such cases, the supervisor needs to have a frank talk with such employees and help them to identify their personal problems. Such problem employees should be requested to work through their personal problems over an agreed period of time. In some other cases, there are problem employees who never share information necessary to complete an assigned task. He/she can never realise that the information he/she has can be useful for the completion of the task. This is not due to malice.
In such cases, the supervisor should communicate with the employee in greater detail regarding the completion of the task. Such detailed communication will bring out the necessity for sharing information on the part of the problem employee. This exercise would also enhance the ego of the employee for providing vital information to the task, which he/she thought was not necessary. In some organisations, there are employees who join directly from colleges and complain constantly about long hours of work and feeling overwhelmed by their jobs. In such cases, the supervisor should help the problem employee to cope with the demands of their jobs.
Many problem employees who complain of overwork may have many social connections including relatives whom they would like to meet often. Such employees face a problem of work-life balance. There are standard methods in management literature which can resolve work-life imbalance problem, such as job rotation, job enrichment, properly defining the scope of the work and helping the employee to view the job in a larger perspective.
There are some problem employees who have an unorthodox approach to their jobs, which may create disciplinary issues. For example, some employees may arrive to work two hours late but many work two hours overtime because they believe they work best when nobody is around.
Such employees may be allowed leeway provided they do not reduce the productivity of other employees through lack of coordination. Over a period of time, such employees toe the official line but such cases are few and far between. A more serious problem employee is the one who is in the habit of stealing stationary and other petty things from the office or stealing precious materials or devices from the company. Such employees usually work in godowns or factories.
The supervisor of such employees should have a serious talk with them once they are apprehended and must tell the employees that he/she would be pardoned for the first time with a strict warning. However, he/she would be dismissed from the organisation after the second offence. The supervisor should know that such employees are clever in blaming others in the group, thereby disowning their own responsibility. This kind of behaviour reduces the morale of the group and makes the group suspicious. Let us illustrate two cases of problematic employees and how to deal with them.
#1 Lone wolf employee
Divyesh Jhaveri is a lone wolf. Divyesh works all by himself and rarely acknowledges anyone in the hallway. Divyesh avoids interactions with his colleagues and believes that he has no need for them on or off the job. Mr Jhaveri is good at his job, which he can do by himself without the help of his colleagues. Now, the company has decided to place him as chief of a distribution network, which requires working and communicating with distributors. He is also required to address a monthly meeting of distributors in which he has to communicate intensively with them. Mr Jhaveri feels helpless and considers himself unequal to the task. Predictably, his performance in this task is poor. What should the company do with such an employee?
Those who wield power and influence in the company ought to have known beforehand that Mr Jhaveri, though good at his work, avoids human contact both on and off the job. Therefore, he should be placed in a job requiring a lot of technical skills but minimal human contact. If he does not have skills for the new job, he can be trained by the company for the same.
#2 Depressed employee
Madhukar Desai was an excellent marketing manager till misfortune visited him in the last year. Madhukar lost his father and lost his daughter to a mysterious illness. Mr Desai could not understand why this had to happen to him. He did not want to live any longer and lost interest in his work and life. What should the company do?
It seems that Mr Desai is depressed from the traumatic events in his life. Therefore, the company should request Mr Desai to consult with the inhouse Employee Assistance Programme Director.
Both of them should frankly discuss the problem facing Mr Desai. It is most likely that Mr Desai would be directed to a competent psychiatrist and would successfully resolve his problem of depression, which is now not an uncommon problem faced by employees in organisations.
Dr Archan Mehta has a PhD in Management and is based in India. He has over 10 years of work experience in sectors like Media, Food Services, Hospitality, Education, and Security. He is currently a Consultant.
This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of HR Future magazine.