How to Solve Your Employee Problem
Every boss has had at least one of “those” employees — the ones that are hard to manage, impossible to control or just difficult to get along with. Identifying problem employees is usually the easy part; the hard part is knowing what to do about them. Gini Graham Scott’s book, A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell: Handling Idiots, Whiners, Slackers, and Other Workplace Demons, throws a rope out to confused bosses faced with that dilemma.
Leading by Example
Scott realizes that problem employees come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the guy who takes too much time off, the woman who is not a good cultural fit, the assistant who is too emotionally invested and the one who could care less. There’s the one who is stealing, the one who drinks and the one who might be a security threat. Then there are the liars, the poor communicators and the employees who scam the legal system at the employer’s expense. Scott tackles many such problem-employee situations by devoting most of her book to 34 short case studies.
Scott groups her case studies into five categories: bad attitude, incompetent, personal issues, trust and honesty, and communication. For each case study, she uses one or two pages to describe the situation between a manager and a problem employee, then provides a list of possible solutions.
These solutions vary in their practicality and flexibility, offering ample choices to managers who might oversee a range of personalities and circumstances. Scott then evaluates those possibilities and their likely results, ending each case study with recommendations and a checklist of key take-aways.
Making Lemonade out of Lemons
Scott also realizes that every situation has special circumstances. Hence, the book’s final section, “Putting It All Together,” includes a chapter on the idea that some problems may be the employer’s fault. In it, she encourages readers to take a long, hard look at themselves and their management style.
This section also includes a “How Bad Is Your Employee?” quiz and a grid on which the reader can rank the severity of various employee problems. These tools help pinpoint the nature of employee problems, but, more importantly, they help managers develop perspective.
Scott strives to accommodate the gray areas of many situations by discussing visualization techniques and other methods for making good decisions. These include weighing the pros and cons of employee problems, staying focused on practical solutions and considering the following six factors before taking action:
1. Employee personality and reasons for the behavior
2. Size and culture of the organization
3. Employer personality and management style
4. Employee relationships with co-workers and other supervisors
5. The replaceability of the employee
6. How others feel about the employee’s behavior.
Scott also introduces the E-R-I (emotions, reasons, intuition) conflict-resolution model. This tool encourages that the employer get his or her emotions under control to deal rationally with a problem; that the reasons why the conflict occurred be understood; and that the employer consider his or her intuition about what the right path is after methodically evaluating the situation.
Where feasible, Scott offers specific action steps. For example, she writes that there are several ways to handle employees with bad attitudes, but the first step is usually to confront the employee. What follows depends on the employee’s productivity: Perhaps an otherwise good employee is sent to counseling; perhaps co-workers are taught to have thicker skin; or perhaps the employee is terminated.
Scott can’t address every problem, but A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell is a starting point for gaining perspective on one of the biggest and most stressful challenges of being a manager.
Why We Like ThIs Book
A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell is part tool kit, part moral compass and part therapy for managers struggling to overcome the frustration, anxiety and inefficiency of supervising difficult employees. Gini Graham Scott’s methodic evaluation of possible solutions to a wide variety of circumstances makes her book a practical, soothing reminder that no manager has to be “stuck” with a problem employee.