The first step to solving any problem is to define it.  Too often, supervisors fail to take action to address problematic employees, thinking that the problem will go away, that it’s not that serious, or that it’s too risky to do anything about it.  While something has to be done, keep in mind that not all poor employees are a lost cause, and that it’s often far more efficient to fix an employee’s performance, than it is to find and train someone else.

The Undecider.  The Undecider takes days to make a decision, often reconsiders decisions after they are made, undermines group decisions after the fact, and is usually the first to say, “I told you so,” when a new idea or initiative does not go as planned.  He is most problematic when he is in management role.

  • Antidote: The Undecider often can greatly benefit from coaching and counseling.  The Undecider may simply be a reflective employee who likes to have all the information before making decisions, and he may not understand how his behavior is affecting morale and productivity in the workplace.  The Undecider may be a great employee, who needs support, enforced deadlines, and accountability.  And, of course, don’t forget to celebrate improvements in his performance.   Also, an Undecider may be struggling with “the impossible task,” a common symptom of depression in which people find it incredibly difficult to do otherwise simple tasks.  Your Undecider may be experiencing these challenges, and it is important to encourage counseling and do what you can to get him the help that he needs.

The Hot Mess.  This employee is incompetent, erratic, disorganized, and unreliable.  She constantly appeals to other employees to help her with her work, resists change, and, of course, lacks credibility within the organization. 

  • Antidote: The Hot Mess may benefit from coaching and counseling, but she may prove a difficult case.  If she is overly relying on other employees to complete her tasks, then additional training might be necessary.  As with other problem employees, it is important to provide support, hold her accountable, and celebrate improvements.  In some cases, the Hot Mess may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or substance abuse issues.  If that is the case, then it is important to encourage medical assistance, treatment, and/or counseling.

The Slacker.  The Slacker meets minimum expectations and has low personal motivation.  He is an expert at finding creative ways to waste time.  He disregards deadlines and is frequently absent or tardy.  It is a full-time job not to do his job.

  • Antidote: The Slacker benefits from clear expectations and consequences.  In many cases, a performance improvement plan with a clear action plan is necessary.  Unscheduled visits and reviews may also improve focus and productivity.  While these employees also benefit from accountability and the celebration of improvements, in discussing work performance issues with the Slacker, supervisors should look for hidden resentments.  The Slacker may feel that he is not paid enough, that he is not given enough responsibility, and addressing those resentments head-on may transform this employee.

The Socialite.  The Socialite is “Everyone’s Best Friend.”  He is loud and distracting.  He lacks focus and is prone to endless chatter and coffee breaks.  He takes an immature approach to work.  He often demonstrates unprofessional or inappropriate conduct, including gossip and office drama.

  • Antidote: The Socialite needs accountability and regular redirection.  A supervisor should help the Socialite understand that defined social times and activities exist within the workplace, the supervisor should set expectations about appropriate behavior.  In some cases, re-evaluating office lay-out can curb excessive socializing.  In some cases, a supervisor strongly consider re-assigning the Socialite to a different position.  The Socialite may have fantastic communication and interpersonal skills that are underutilized in his current position.  The Socialite might greatly improve if re-assigned from a data entry position, for example, to a sales or business development role.  A Socialite may be a great employee, who is not a great fit for his current role.

The Martyr.  The Martyr insists on doing everything herself.  Thinking that she works harder than everyone else, she has a heightened sense of importance and complains about her workload, her co-workers, and the lack of recognition.  Although she may be highly productive, she undermines the confidence of others, and her attitude can be highly toxic and contagious.  She is often prone to burnout. 

  • Antidote: The Martyr certainly needs to become more aware of her behaviors and how they affect morale in the workplace. She may resist that awareness, but it is important that an effort is made.  The Martyr’s supervisor must teach and enforce delegation and work to create a collaborative workplace.  The Martyr should be encouraged to take time away from work, and she should be introduced to stress-management techniques.  While it can be incredibly difficult to part with a high-producing Martyr, if she is highly toxic to the work environment and resist change, then separation may be necessary.

The Sociopath.  The Sociopath is a bully.  She disregards rules and policies.  She has issues with authority and often resorts to manipulation, intimidation, and sabotage.  The Sociopath is a significant liability, and she may engage in unlawful discrimination or harassment of other employees.

  • Trust your instincts.  The Sociopath is not only toxic but also potentially dangerous.  When the Sociopath engages in negative behavior, it is critical that you consistently enforce rules and protocols and carefully document the incident.  Your ultimate goal is providing a safe and supportive environment for your employees, and you need to quickly address the Sociopath’s conduct if safety is at risk.  In many cases, you may be left with no choice but to terminate the Sociopath’s employment, and, when you do so, you will want to ensure that you take appropriate safety measures when you do so.

For questions regarding these types of employees, contact an attorney at our Sioux Falls, Sioux City, or Omaha office today.


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