Figuring out what’s to blame
Many difficult employees produce quality work in spite of their personality issues. That makes disciplining this kind of employee even more complicated.
That’s the situation Liza Estolano found herself in when a solid performer threatened staff morale with her volatile moods.
Never know what to expect
“I’m fed up!” employee Steven Hicks said after taking a seat in Liza’s office. “I’ve always made an effort to be nice to Jackie, since she sits near me. But lately she’s been driving me crazy. I can never tell what she’s going to do or say next.”
“What do you mean?” Liza asked.
“Sometimes she’s super sweet and will do anything you ask, or she’ll come over and say something nice for no reason,” Steven said. “And other times, if you even say ‘Hello” to her, she gives you a mean look or snaps back some nasty reply.”
Still a good worker
“Jackie’s been with us a long time – and sure, she’s never been afraid to show how she feels,” Liza said. “But that’s never interfered with her work.”
“Well, it’s interfering with my work,” Steven said, “or at least my ability to do it well. It’s tough to stay positive during these times, but having someone like that around sure isn’t helping.”
‘Which Jackie today?’
“Have you thought about taking to her about it?” Liza asked.
“No, because it’s hard to tell which Jackie will show up each day,” Steven said. “I’m afraid to say anything to her for fear I am going to get screamed at. I’ve seen it happen to other people. It’s not pretty.”
“We can’t have people getting screamed at,” Liza said. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The big question
Liza knew Jackie was a bit temperamental, especially when things didn’t go her way. But she also has a long track record of success.
If Steven’s claims were true, this was a real problem. Liza couldn’t risk having another member of her staff yelled at again.
At the same time, if Jackie had always been this way, it’d be harder for her to change.
Liza didn’t want morale to sink any lower – but she also wanted to keep Jackie on as a hard-working employee.
If you were in Liza’s situation, what would you do? Perhaps one of the ideas offered by our readers below might provide you with some guidance.
Set down rules of courtesy and respect
I’d sit down with Jackie for a one-on-one chat – and find out if she was dealing with anything that might call for some advice or counseling outside of work. I’d also remind her to be courteous to her co-workers, even if she’s not having a good day. She needs to remember it’s company policy to treat all co-workers and managers with respect. As long as she’s able to accept this constructive criticism, I wouldn’t press the issue any further – after all, Jackie’s personality has never interfered with her ability to do a good job.
Janet Jackson, HR Director – Tazewell County Health Department, Tremont, IL
Ask for concerns and offer help
I’d take the time to observe Jackie on my own, and see if there was any truth behind Steven’s statements. If so, then I’d talk to her and explain I’d noticed she hasn’t been acting like herself lately. Then I’d ask if everything was OK, and if there was anything I could do to help. It’s especially important during these times to keep an eye out for moody, stressed out employees. Supervisors should make an effort to talk to them and offer assistance – that way, employees don’t feel like they’re being reprimanded. And often, they’ll open up about problems they’re having. It can be therapeutic.
Carolyn Baumel, VP/Human Resources Officer – Citizens Bank of Northen CA, Nevada City, CA