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Employee from Hell # 15: Great Results – Bad Attitude

 

One of the most difficult decisions managers can face is what to do with an employee who delivers results, but who’s attitude is a disruptive influence on the team? Here is a situation as one Winning at Work subscriber explained:

“I have an employee who is an inside telephone customer service/sales representative on our team. On the surface, you’d think she was the perfect employee. She has never failed to exceed her targets by a wide margin. In fact, she’s the second most productive salesperson we have. She has the lowest rate of escalated complaints of anyone on the team. She’s never missed a day of work, and she always volunteers to fill in when someone misses a shift. It’s a different story, however, when it comes to how successful she is with the people in the office. She badmouths me and her coworkers constantly. She fights with our support staff – no-one wants to talk to her. When she comes into the room, you can feel the motivation draining out of everyone else. There’s no way I can justify letting her go, but if I don’t do something, people are going to start quitting…”

Tough call. But it’s not all bad news. You see, this is an individual who is driven to succeed. She’s single-minded and motivated by achievement opportunities. Yes, it’s true that she doesn’t hesitate to push aside anything (or anyone) that stands in her way, and that she doesn’t have time for people who, in her mind, settle for mediocrity. But in a target-driven sales and service environment, these are generally very good traits.

Although you may not be seeing this side of her at the moment, this is typically an individual who loves good competition. She genuinely doesn’t understand why everyone else isn’t like her, and if you were to pair her up with another, similar individual, there’s a good chance that their competitive spirit would drive both of them to spectacular performance levels.

Here are a couple of approaches worth trying:

1. Pair her up with another high-flying performer. Someone she can respect, and someone she can feed off of.

2. Have a discussion with her. Let her know how impressed you are with her performance. Ask her to understand that her strong personality has a strong impact on the team. Tell her that she has the potential to be a tremendously positive influence, and that you would really appreciate her trying to fill that role – because right now, she’s having the opposite effect. (Remember that this individual is goal driven – so present it to her as a challenge. Chances are she’ll rise to it.)

If these don’t work, you may have to consider corrective action for the sake of the team. But before you do, be careful that the real issue isn’t really your lower performers being intimidated by someone’s high motivation levels. It may be that the scrutiny really belongs on them.

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