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How to handle 10 of the most annoying employees

Obnoxious attitudes and troublesome employees - what you can do about them?

1. Us and Them
This attitude exists in every business that has different departments. It's also common to companies that don't have different departments, but that have employees with different functions. In fact, the breeding ground is there from the moment a company transforms from a one-person business to a bigger company with employees.

The solution out is called “long-term and persistent efforts” to create a feeling of “we” at the various departments and among the employees. Increase the amount of communication and the number of contact surfaces. Place those who can't work together at the same table and set common requirements for them. Design work so you will facilitate the links between the departments.

2. We have loads of work to do now
If you come across an employee who constantly says that ”we have so much to do now”, you either concur or reject the claim. Duties are today rarely easy to measure quantitatively. In some cases there is a work instruction for just a single goal for your employees to reach. Then the rest is up to the employee to decide and take responsibility for.

Tell your ”busy” employees that you are willing to find other solutions. Offer to sit down and go through the tasks, procedures and priorities. Don't be surprised if you encounter resistance and unwillingness to do so. To ”be really busy” can be an effective way to keep a real burden at a distance.

3. It wasn't my fault
To blame other people can more or less be developed into an art form. With experience and cunning, the child like ”It wasn't my fault” can be advanced as a reward to anyone who listens. But it's also likely that those who work in this employee's vicinity for a long time learns how to deal with such people.

Avoid becoming “the end of the line” for your employees' excuses or claims that the error is someone else's. Always follow up and check facts. The moment you hear an accusation or excuse, call for a joint meeting with everyone involved. Ask each person to describe their version of the incident. Once you have finished the meeting you can safely draw your own conclusions. You've heard what they have said and seen how they have behaved towards each other during the meeting.

4. Mom is not here
Never turn the fact that every workplace has at least one person who always makes a mess and never cleans up into a problem. Such a person needs a mom at work and his/her co-workers will take turns in acting as his/her mum. This problem is often mission-critical, but it is common and creates a lot of irritation among your other employees.

Play it down and confront the employee openly with facts. Indirect mumbling comments or petty whining are the worst methods. The sloppy employee will have a field day, it's all the others who are so vulnerable when no one says anything openly. Exaggerate a bit and laugh at his/her teenage behavior together.

5. Not my desk
There are basically two situations where the attitude ”not my desk” is heard. First, if you are wondering why a particular task has not been completed, and also when you are handing out new assignments and associated responsibilities. In the first case, it's a way to blame themselves. In the second case, it's a way of trying to escape work.

Make it a rule to always give your employees clear job descriptions where you, in detail, describe what their duties are and what you expect of them. Follow up the job descriptions with regular discussions. Also, address the responsibilities at joint meetings, so that all your employees will be made aware of what they can expect from each other.

6. The Martyr
The Martyr gladly sighs and say things like; ”Well, I guess it's me who must take the night shift  … again, ”or ”Wait, let's see who they'll ask to clean that mess up. I bet it'll be me”. When you have spent some time with The Martyr, you get the strange feeling that he/she actually plans his/her work just to show off his/her own vulnerability.

You will notice that The Martyr overestimate his/her own importance. Even when The Martyr is just doing his/her regular duties, he/she wants everyone to understand that if he/she didn't do it, the entire company would fall apart. Actually, The Martyr only wants some appreciation, but asks for it in a way that no one understands or enjoys. Keep The Martyr's behavior at the right level. Show that you appreciate his/her work and acknowledge that you know that things get done, but avoid repeating his/her indirect way of communicating.

7. Wise after the event
Anyone who is excessively hind sighted is a kind of smart-ass in arrears. He/she notes that he/she ”knew best”. If you hear the comment; ”What did I tell you?”more than twice a week, then you have a Mr/mrs Hindsight on your hands. But this person isn't particularly good at predicting events. He/she often talks about things that have turned into opposite directions.

Always ask such a person to develop his/her visions of the future as time goes by. Ask him/her to have a proper explanation to help you customize your order. He/she feeds on the possibilities to comment on everything that happens without having to explain further what he/she means. When the comments are met with demands for explanation, it's not as ”fun” anymore.

8. The Rebel
It's always a challenge for you to handle an employee who delivers criticism of your leadership. When The Rebel talks it becomes even more challenging. He/she is, as a rule, tells you that ”everyone else in the company agree with” him/her. Usually, without being asked, he/she takes the role as the one who gets to step forward and tell the truth to those in power (you, that is).

Ask who the other employees are. No one can speak for anyone else, unless there are signed statements on paper. There is no solution other than that you get to talk to them yourself or ask them to sign a document that allows someone else to speak on their behalf. When The Rebel understands that you mean business, you can hope that he/she backs down. It's healthy and good that you get to hear what other people think, but such discussions should be done in an objective way and not by a person who, for various reasons, just enjoy the fight itself.

9. The Sick One
The corridors and rooms are filled with … well, not quite the Sound of Music, but the sounds of someone being sick. Someone coughing, blowing his/her nose and sneezing, much to the discomfort of his/her fellow workers.
But The Sick One doesn't mind. He/she have made it a habit to go to work even when he/she is sick. Of course, it's both unpleasant and unhealthy to walk around with a runny nose. If it's you that keeps him/her at work with your requirements, you are doing yourself a disservice. His/her work will probably be poorly done anyway and your other employees are also risking getting sick.

If it's due to bad planning by The Sick One, you can help him/her to organize his/her work better. Or tell him/her that the company will actually survive even if he/she takes a few days sick leave. Tell him/her that you personally guarantee that the company won't go bust. If he/she insists on staying at work, arrange the opportunity for him/her to work from home. It's worth the effort to avoid having to risk that customers or key suppliers end up in front of pale, coughing employees.

10. Mr/Mrs Conflict
Mr/Mrs Conflict ends up in conflicts everywhere. He/she always has the feeling that other people are looking for conflict with him/her and he/she always turns into a victim when it happens. A casual conversation about a task can be interpreted as a personal attack. A careless comment can be interpreted in a sophisticated manner to be an indirect attack.

When the environment perceives that the problem is that Mr/Mrs Conflict is too sensitive, he/she experiences just the opposite. He/she thinks that he/she is falsely accused of something and defends himself/herself by claiming that it's, in fact, everyone around him/her that is too sensitive to what he/she says. Take notes of events and circumstances. The notes will help you with two things: 1.You will have a basis for a constructive discussion. You need to be objective and know what you are talking about when it's time. 2. If you can't find a solution, you need records to substantiate your reasons for a possible dismissal.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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