Monday, February 20, 2006

A Common Problem

A brief word about a situation that many of you have encountered:

I'm currently blessed to be working with some extraordinary people who get along well with one another.

If you've spent any time in the workplace, however, you know how rare that can be. Usually, there's at least one troll - some unrecognized genius - who tosses out snide remarks at staff meetings, plays devil's advocate as a blood sport and is generally unpleasant. People work around rather than with the person because of his or her abrasive qualities.

The person may have some skills - after all, few people are devoid of talent - but there's only one real solution: Get rid of that person as soon as possible!

I'm not recommending a rush to judgment so don't put me down as someone who won't give a team member a decent break. This isn't about someone who needs a few rough edges polished but who otherwise has a good attitude and solid values. This is about the incorrigible offender who might be fine in a job where food can be slipped under the door but is lousy in any position that requires working with others.

  • Send the person to expensive workshops in the hope that the person will be turned around. It won't happen.
  • Restructure the job to please the person. It won't work.
  • Ignore it. The people who have to work with the character will resent your weakness.
  • Tell yourself that we all have weaknesses. We do, but not to that degree.

If you are faced with this situation, you know I'm right. Talk to any group of managers or supervisors and they can quickly list their dysfunctional employees. Ask them why those people are still on the job and they stare at the ground and draw circles with their shoes.

Don't procrastinate. Go to your Human Resources people, your organization's attorney and your boss and explain that the employee is not working out. Set a schedule for a rapid turnaround and, if lightning doesn't strike, a dismissal. Don't keep someone on who can make your life miserable for years.

You'll be happier and the co-workers will be happier.

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