The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Managing a Star Employee with an Attitude

In any business there are 4 types of employees. If you understand these types and their key attributes, how you manage them becomes much easier.

The first attribute is the person’s Ability. How capable are they in doing their job? They may have low ability, or be highly capable, with their ability (good or bad) recognised by others in your business.

The second attribute is their Attitude. This may vary from poor, just there for the pay cheque, to enthusiastic and willing to do whatever the job requires to make your business a success.

When we combine these attributes, we get a clearer picture of the employee and the management strategy for them. For those with a poor attitude and low ability, the solution is simple. These individuals appear unwilling to improve and they constantly disrupt the business causing problems for others to fix. If they are not removed from the business, the people who do the fixing will leave.

The second group are those who have great ability and a great attitude. These are your Superstars. They are ambassadors for your business and they should be honoured, nurtured and rewarded.

The third group are those whose ability is not what is required for their job, but still have a positive attitude. These are people who can be trained and developed as they are willing to learn. They may or may not become superstars, but they can become a solid core for your business, people on whom you will be able to depend.

The final group are the problem children. They have a great ability, recognised by others, but have a poor attitude. They are cynical and present the boss and the business in a bad light to other staff and even to customers. This is often behind the owner’s back. Problem children spread their poison and infect the rest of the business. Other staff look up to the problem children and listen because they know they are good at what they do. While this same attitude may be present in the very first group, it will be ignored because of the employee’s poor ability, and just viewed by others as sour grapes.

Problem children can turn off those with development potential and drive out the superstars because they can’t understand why the boss tolerates such an attitude.

I have seen many times such employees in clients’ businesses, and often see while we are discussing the future of such a person, that the problem child leaves of their own accord, the best result. The owner is almost always relieved and only after they have gone, do they become fully aware of the damage they have done.

In a small business the problem child can infect the whole workplace.

Far better to identify the toxic employee before the damage is done, determine what might be behind the attitude problem, and if it can’t be fixed, deal directly with the individual before they bring the business down. It is all too common for a person to be hired on ability and fired on attitude.

While losing a problem child can leave a hole in your business, leaving a toxic employee in place is even worse.

May Your Business this Year be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.

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Dennis Keay said...

Hi Greg, Nice article.
There's another variant on the 'unwilling and unable'. Whilst you mention removing them from the business, this isn't always as easy as it sounds. In the particular case I'm referring to, when I worked in a large, unionised manufacturer, the individual was a union shop-steward and Health & Safety Rep rolled into one. He was actually a very capable person, but would tell you he was 'unable'. He was certainly unwilling, but wouldn't say that.

With this particular person, I spent the time to subtly 'mentor' him and find out why really he was unwilling. I discovered that it was primarily lack of recognition (but I didn't tell him that.) By engaging him and giving him some responsibilities that he was credited for, for doing a good job...he became much more willing and cooperative. In fact, he became a leader of some improvement initiatives that I delegated to him and that his peers (and I) recognised him for.

Because he was an influencer amongst his peers, he was able to engage others in improvement efforts. Effectively, this approach moved him from the 'unwilling and unable' box to the 'willing and able box' and made my job as manager a whole lot easier.

It did take my time and effort, but it did pay off.

Dennis Keay,
Business ImprovementConsultant and Executive Coach
Lean Logic P/L.

Unknown said...

Most offices are full of this kind of people. It's a matter of how you deal with them. But like I always say, no matter how good an employee is, if it comes with attitude, it's better to let them go. You can actually consider it as one of business improvement strategy.


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