Leading People – When Employees Are a Drain

Without question, people are complex. There’s not just good behavior and bad behavior, but the ever faithful “gray area.” Yet, the solutions proposed from most experts for dealing with difficult behavior makes the issue seem so simple, black and white even. Don’t fall for it. The employees who make that giant sucking sound when they walk in a room or the ones who seem to take all of your energy with them when they go are not rehabil-itated with easy-peasy solutions. Finding a never-mapped-out
cable would be easier. But, then again, these are people. These are valued team members. So, what does one do when the actions of one are a drain on many, particularly the leader? Perhaps the first steps include coaching or even discipline, and certainly boundary setting. There is value in personality identification to uncover a simple misconstrued disconnect. In either case, much as one would do to locate that cable, begin the diagnoses. Use the appropriate assessment or equipment. Seek solutions versus spewing complaints and then follow these three important observationbased, inquiry-oriented solutions.

Sucking Out the Energy
There are simply some people who manage to suck the very life out of a room upon arrival. There are others who seem to find joy in being the focal point of a manager’s actions and conversations, positive or otherwise. And there are others who make themselves so darn difficult to get along with that a manager might begin to question whether or not sticking around is worth it. If there is any relevance to one, two, or all three of these in the field or workplace, remember that the choice to continue being a source of energy is not a foregone conclusion. People are only able to bug those who let them. People are only able to suck energy out of a source that has made it available. Simply said, if they’re sucking the life out of what you do, make a choice that is better, boundary-filled and more productive for yourself.

Draining Your Reserve
No matter which direction the water swirls in a bucket, if one employee is the source of that drain on your energy reserves it’s time for decisive action and some decisions. The first action to take is an examination of one’s expectations. What are they? Are they in any way in alignment with the person expected to adhere to them? Do the expectations match this person’s capabilities? If not, alter the expectations to fit or consider making a change to the person’s employment, including inviting them to
grow their career…elsewhere. If the expectations align, the next action is a decision. Which hill is worth climbing, much less dying on? Not every misstep, attitude outburst, or complaint is a crisis or even a hill worth climbing. Be mindful of time spent on non-important issues, as the drain may be coming from one’s reactions versus the employee’s harmless or temporary actions.

Finding the Fit
The good news is these situations need not be reality. After one failed attempt and perhaps a wee bit of trial and error, even a newly-promoted manager can find employees that fit and aren’t a drain on everyone around them. But how does one find that fit? To prevent bringing or keeping someone on the team who is the proverbial square peg being shoved into a round opening, clearly determine the job’s criteria. What does it take to perform this role or function at maximum quality? What skills are needed, versus what type of person, to fulfill this function successfully? Clarity around the job’s criteria makes it easier to spot a fit with someone who won’t suck the life out of the team or be a drain on your own leadership capabilities. After all, it is those who were not a fit to begin with who often develop the most obvious and damaging attitude issues.

Whether the choices seem easy or nearly impossible, managers mired in mere tasks face these kinds of scenarios daily. Leaders focus on the development of people. They strive to hire and keep only those who fit with team members, fit with the style of the leader and show the potential to perform at high levels. If there is a giant sucking sound from the energy drain in one person’s presence, rest assured that without some action taken and new choices made, new technologies and new equipment will not be on top of the list of what needs immediate attention.

Monica Wofford, CSP is a keynote speaker and leadership development specialist. Through her firm Contagious Companies, she and her team train managers who’ve been promoted, but not prepared.
To learn more, go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com or reach Monica directly by dialing 1-866-382-0121.

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