- Blog post
What to do with an employee who won’t get with the program
Every boss has them: Those difficult employees who just can’t get with the program.
They’re always locking horns with co-workers. Or with you. And when you tell them to knock it off, they keep right on insisting that Their Way is The Right Way.
You could just show them The Highway. But before you resort to that, you might try this technique to help get them in alignment:
Start the discussion by getting the difficult employee’s justification for what he or she is doing. Like this: “Joan, I’ve asked you to submit weekly reports every Thursday, but you haven’t been doing it. Help me understand why.”
Hold on, you say: That will just encourage Joan to offer a self-serving rationalization for his unacceptable behavior. Who cares what Joan thinks?
You should. Here’s why.
By hearing the employee justify the conduct from his own perspective, you can get a starting point for modifying the conduct – even if you totally disagree with his or her thinking.
Joan says, “I don’t do those reports because they’re a waste of time.”
Okay. Now you can have a meaningful discussion. “Let me explain why they’re not a waste of time, Joan. I need those reports so I can accurately project our department’s revenue every week. The CFO uses those projections to manage our cash flow, and if they’re late or inaccurate, the bank could reduce our line of credit, and that would be devastating to our business.”
Another example: Bruce always fills the printer with paper that’s been used on one side. Result: constant paper jams. After co-workers repeatedly complain, you ask Bruce to stop. But he keeps doing it.
When you ask why, he tells you he wants to save trees. Well, that makes a kind of sense, you reflect. So you invite Bruce instead to suggest ways the staff can print fewer documents – but on one side only!