To the outside world (me included) this particular member of staff, who works for a client of mine, seems fine.
In fact, she seems better than fine.
She seems to be engaged, witty, conscientious, fun… an all round good employee.
That’s why it was a bit of a surprise when my client, whom I’ve known for many, many years, took me to one side to ask for some advice. ‘I’ve got a problem,’ he said (who hasn’t, I thought, but refrained from saying), ‘and I need your advice on how to deal with X.’
X isn’t her real name; I’ve changed it so no-one will ever be any the wiser.
‘What do you mean ‘deal with’’, I asked, somewhat perplexed.
‘Well, she’s just a problem,’ came the reply.
‘Is she disruptive?’
‘Is her work up to scratch?’
‘So, what’s the problem?’
‘I don’t know. She just doesn’t… she winds me up, okay!’
‘And does she ‘wind up’ other people?’
‘Oh, yes, lots of them. I’ve asked a load of other managers and they all say the same thing.’
‘Errrrrrrr… that she’s, well… errrrr, there’s something wrong.’
I have to say I sympathise (a bit) with my client. How many times have you had an employee on your books who just doesn’t seem right? It’s very difficult to put your finger on what’s wrong with them; there just is something that doesn’t quite fit.
It may be attitudinal, it could be that have a vague idea they may be winding other members of staff up behind your back or they could just be a poor fit for your business.
The thing is, unless you can put your finger on what it it and it is something you can ask them to change because it is either effecting performance (theirs and/or others) or their conduct is contrary to company policy, then there’s not much you can do about it.
That’s why I was asking those questions of my client… to try and help him pinpoint what was wrong. If, for example, his member of staff had a problem with sticking to the rules… let’s say by raiding the minibar on a business trip when expenses policy says you shouldn’t, then there’s a disciplinary option.
If, on the other hand, she has been shirking her duties and performance has dipped, then he can go down the performance management route.
Otherwise he’d better get some specifics or learn to manage his member of staff in a different way.