How do you deal with a pain in the… neck?

It’s not easy!

You know the sort of person I’m talking about. They’re just a bit neggie when it comes to work. They make snide comments, but nothing you could really get annoyed with if it was on just one occasion and they generally rub the rest of the team up the wrong way.

I had a call from a client recently asking for some advice on how to deal with just such a person. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: How’s their performance?
Them: Fine, fine… no complaints there at all.
Me: Okay, so what’s the issue?
Them: They’re a bit neggie!
Me: Give me some specific examples.
Them: I can’t, really. It’s their general demeanour.
Me: Right. How is their relationship with other members of staff?
Them: Ah, there I can help you. It’s terrible.
Me: How?
Them: Others just don’t like them.
Me: Why?
Them: Er… don’t know, really. It’s hard to say.

Hmmm… not much to go on.

In fact, the position is really hard to deal with, because the conversation goes like this:

You: I’d like to talk to you about your relationship with the rest of the team.
Them: Why? Who’s said something?
You: Well, no-one specifically.
Them: Good bye.

Dealing with this situation goes all the way back to pre-recruitment when you are trying to work out what each member of the team has to do and what ‘acceptable behaviour’ actually means. But let’s assume that this has been done and you need to deal with a situation that’s, shall we say, arisen?

It’s all about specifics. You need to define the behaviours you are looking for in your people (back to pre-recruitment) and you need to have laid the foundations. If you haven’t you need to do some general work before you tackle this issue… like explaining what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Only then can you take someone aside and say ‘your behaviour isn’t acceptable…’ Even then you need to be very, very specific, with real examples and the effect the behaviour has on their and other people’s performance.

Then you have to explain what you need them to do to put things right. Even better, get them to tell you what they need to do to put things right!

Finally, you have to give them a realistic amount of time to make changes before reviewing again to either say ‘well done and thanks’ or ‘Oi… further to our previous discussion!’

And all this needs to be done with sensitivity and compassion because the person might not even know they are being a neggie git.

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