Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Employee You'll Never Forget

You remember him.

He's the employee that you had some misgivings about in the job interview, but you dismissed those as foolish suspicions and hired him anyway.

At first, he seemed promising. He was technically strong and you appreciated that skill, but then he started to have run-ins with other employees. You concluded that the others were too quick to judge and possibly even jealous of his early successes. You thought things would work out over time.

He made a point of being very supportive of you and yet there was always a hollow ring present. You felt you were being played although you couldn't pinpoint a solid reason. You noticed that he would drop subtle and not so subtle criticisms of his co-workers into conversations. You wondered if you were the recipient of the same treatment.

As the months passed, a pattern emerged. People would praise him in a restrained way that made you feel something was being withheld. You didn't inquire further because you didn't want to appear to be prejudiced or looking for trouble. People began to structure work and assignments so they had minimal contact with him.

It wasn't as if he had no supporters. Some people liked him. He participated in community activities and was even elected to head a few groups. This added to your confusion. Perhaps I'm not managing him properly, you thought. Perhaps I simply need to adjust his assignments and play to his strengths.

You did so, but the problems and the feelings continued. You were in a box. There was no documentation of any performance problems because the ones that had occurred seemed so intangible and you knew the company's attorneys would want measurable standards. You lost sleep, were snappish at home, and blamed yourself for not being as gutsy as some of your peers.

What were you missing? Several key management ground rules:
  1. Don't keep anyone on your team who cannot be trusted.
  2. In most cases, bad news does not improve with age.
  3. A technically strong employee who has a bad attitude is not a good employee. Make sure you are not giving high performance evaluations to an employee who is devoid of people skills.
  4. Attitudinal problems should never be ignored, but they should be described in behavioral terms. State the behavior you want to see and the behavior you don't want to see.
  5. Don't ignore your intuition. Any time you sense that an employee is not being honest with you, confront that person immediately.
  6. Train people who have skills problems. Get rid of people who have values problems.
  7. Good management is not possible without courage. You gain courage by doing courageous things.

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