IAN FERGUSON: How to deal with the worst workers

Many employers have had to deal with at least one worker who seems incapable of salvaging even a basic understanding of workplace decorum and ethics. This is the one unruly team member who, despite all efforts to bring them along, fails to deliver even at a mediocre standard.

What is most challenging in these situations is that the employee often feels sufficiently protected to walk round with an arrogant sense of job security. No scholarly work and research conducted by seasoned professionals can adequately prepare managers for some of the vile employees they encounter in the workforce.

The popular Bahamian adage, ‘every rope has an end’, should be the glimmer of hope that every supervisor needs when dealing with this employee. After having met a few of these persons in my years of leadership, both in the public and private sectors, I have created what I call a survival checklist for supervisors, managers and leaders who want the best for their organissations:

  1. Make sure your front door as a leader is well swept, and that you are above reproach. These employees have a common practice of coming after the unsuspecting manager with accusations and allegations. They believe that your deficit is a license for their foolishness. When you approach them about habitual tardiness, attendance, poor performance on work assignments and other serious infractions, ensure you are not lacking in these areas.

  2. Cover yourself with documentation and witnesses. These employees will find creative ways to be vindictive, and may get desperate when they feel their jobs are in jeopardy. Do not address them in a room alone EVER, and document everything. The references you make will prove beneficial in the weeks and months ahead.

  3. Be careful to stay away from making your verbal exchange with the employee personal. Human beings have a natural inclination to defend themselves when their character or physical person is under attack. Keep it professional and speak only about how their actions are adversely impacting the work, other employees and the organisation.

  4. Inform the Human Resources Department, or senior leadership, of the ongoing challenges you are having with the employee. The final bust-up should not be the first time they are acquainted with your frequent struggles with this staff member.

  5. Do not take it on personally. This person’s behaviour is probably not a reflection of your leadership skills. My mother often reminds me that it is enshrined in people’s psyche that, when hurt, they want to hurt other people. Misery loves company.

Do your best to work with the individual, but do not allow anyone to convince you that your management skills are lacking because this one is not coming around. Truth is, some people are planted in the wrong garden and no amount of fertilizer will cause them to grow. They need a transplant.

  1. Tell yourself that this employee may be the necessary thorn your leadership skills need to propel you to the next professional and personal level. If you pass this test, you can graduate to a higher dimension of leadership. Your leaders and subordinates are watching you.

  2. Pray. Prayer works. Some things you cannot handle in your own strength, and you must simply rest on a higher power. The sovereign God, who knows the end from the beginning, has a beautiful way of sorting out what our human frailty cannot fix.

• NB: Ian R. Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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