If you are a manager, you probably have had one. I will never forget mine — an employee I didn’t like. She was one of the most unpleasant and manipulative employees I have ever had to manage. Her experience and work product were fine. However, her condescending attitude and negative energy created tension in the department from week one. The publisher hired her to appease a family member and placed her in my department.
I disliked and mistrusted her from the beginning and it took several weeks for me to deal with the shock and resentment of having this employee forced on me. In addition, her attitude and behavior had a negative impact on my staff and me.
When I accepted the fact that she was here to stay, I had to make the situation work and decided upon a strategy. It began with my own attitude adjustment so I didn’t make things worse with negative reactions to her, or by colluding against her with the staff.
Wanting to understand the cause of her disruptive and unprofessional behavior, I observed her interactions with others. Her dismissive behavior, it turned out, was not just towards me. I confronted her about gossip, misrepresenting information to customers and going behind my back to management.
I established and communicated clear expectations with measurable results, and was scrupulously honest and careful about being fair in each of my dealings with her.
When I stopped taking her behavior personally, I was able to focus on her performance and conduct. The result? More effective management.
We’ve probably all been there – having to deal with a boss or a co-worker we just don’t like. And, there are real drawbacks to truly disliking an employee.
Unfair treatment and conscious or unconscious mismanagement can make things worse. It can also be very costly to a business. Further, you may fail to recognize the real benefit the employee can deliver to your staff.
Here are some things I’d like to share with you that I wish I had known at the time:
- Learn to handle your frustration. Rather than focusing on your irritation with the person, focus on your own reaction.
- Ask yourself,
- Does this person remind me of someone I don’t like?
- Am I afraid of being like this person? If so, you may over react.
- Does this person represent a bias or prejudice for me? If you have negative feelings about a particular race, religion, etc., this may complicate your feelings.
- Focus on the employee’s performance and evaluate the results objectively.
- Put on a good face. Everyone wants their boss to like them and your employee will be attuned to your attitude. Your responsibility is to remain fair, impartial, professional and positive.
- Don’t take things personally that aren’t personal. Ask yourself, ”Would I care if someone else said or did that?” If the answer is “no,” then let it go.
- “Catch” your employee doing something right and let them know. No one is annoying all the time. Assume the best; focus on their strengths and how they can help the team.
- Keep your bias to yourself. Be vigilant about maintaining consistent standards, measurements and compensation. If necessary, seek feedback from another manager who is familiar with the employee’s work.
- Don’t avoid the person; instead, try to spend time with him or her. Find a project or way to engage. Keep an open mind by giving the employee the benefit of the doubt. Collaboration and focus on difficult tasks tend to build affinity.
- Understand your authority and responsibility. Identify and communicate the result you desire and focus on achieving that outcome.
Hiring only people you like is not a good strategy. You hire people to do specific kinds of work, not to be your friends. While you may be able to develop some friendships, work is not about getting your emotional needs met. If you only have friends working for you, they may be too nice, flatter you or fail to confront you when necessary.
Of course, you wouldn’t intentionally hire a disruptive or disagreeable person. And, when you have such an employee, they will require considerable effort to manage. Keep at it, do your best and there’s a good chance the dynamics will improve.