Wendy from Toronto wrote:

“I’m in my fourth week of a new job managing a city facility. I have an employee who comes as close to doing absolutely nothing as I have ever seen anyone get. He’s been with the facility for almost 30 years, and has seniority over everyone. The previous manager wrote him up a couple of times, but no action was ever taken. I’ve been told by my boss that it would be virtually impossible to get rid of him now, and that the best strategy would be to just wait him out until he retires (3 years). I don’t know if I can do that – he’s setting such a bad example to everyone else…”

How do you deal with the employee who seems to feel he (she) has so much job security that he doesn’t really have to even try anymore? It doesn’t happen all that often (despite the global and generally unfair myths about civil servants and similar occupations), but when it does happen it is tremendously challenging to deal with. There is, in these situations, the Easy Way and the Hard Way. And, as always seems to be the case, the harder route is the better one.

The easy way to deal with this employee is exactly how the previous manager – and possibly all of his predecessors – chose to deal with it. They ignored the substandard behavior, and hoped it would go away. It was just way too much trouble to actually do something. The consequences of this, however, was that in not doing something about it, they ostensibly gave this employee permission to behave in the way he does.

The hard way, and the better way, involves three steps:

  1. Set your standards, and enforce them -gently and fairly – with everyone. Don’t be confrontational, but don’t be afraid to confront him when his performance is below expectations.

  2. Find opportunities to draw from his years of experience. Let him know that you value him and you respect him for his knowledge. Ask for his opinion on things. It’s possible that the reason
    he initially stopped contributing was because no one ever acknowledged or appreciated his contributions.

  3. If things don’t improve, begin down the progressive discipline path, and let him go if it comes to that. The message to your other employees – that you are a fair and firm boss – will have a huge payoff. In the long run, it will greatly outweigh the pain of taking action.

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