Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Why Do You Baby That Employee?

“It’s easer to just let her have her way than to get her upset and have to deal with the fall-out.”

“If we say anything about it, he’ll sulk for days. It’s just not worth it. ”

“I start every day figuring out what kind of mood she’s in. Sometimes I have to figure it out hourly.”

“Sharon never complains about anything you ask, but Lisa makes life miserable for everyone. So, I give most work to Sharon, then commend her afterwards. That’s good–right?”

Those comments might sound familiar if you work with or supervise someone who is notoriously difficult to deal with. You catch yourself tip-toeing around them, couching every request in elaborately non-offensive language, and generally adjusting many things to keep them happy.

The big question is, “Why are you doing that?” The second question is, “Why should a dozen pleasant employees have to adjust to one or two unpleasant ones?”

The answer for most people is, quite frankly, lack of courage. Pleasant people don’t make you explain, look at you angrily or require you to take a stand about behavior or performance. Unpleasant people require you to be more assertive and stand up for yourself and others, and for many that is not comfortable. But caving in or avoiding isn’t comfortable either and usually results in weeks, months and even years of catering to someone who has done nothing to deserve it.

Pick up a book on parenting sometime–or recall the advice you have given the parents of spoiled, bratty, selfish children–and you will be more effective in dealing with the adult version at work. I jotted down three tips from an article on parenting awhile back. I think they are perfect for many workplaces!

1. Assume your child will cooperate, rather than hesitantly or apologetically asking for a task to be done. The tone of doubt in your voice gives your child reason to believe you will back-off if he or she protests. As a parent you provide at least part of the structure for your child’s time. The more that becomes a matter of fact instead of negotiable, the easier it will be for both you and your child.

2. Every time you do a task for a child because the child becomes angry, cries or suddenly feels sick and can’t do it, you have trained the child as surely as if you purposely taught that technique.

3. Do not require or allow siblings to rescue the child who does not want to do a chore or cooperate with others. It sends the message that the habitually uncooperative child is special but other family members are not. A petulant child can soon become the center of everyone’s efforts to keep him or her happy.

Can you see some application of that parenting advice? I can! With one difference: Even though our children essentially receive a salary and benefits, I doubt they would understand the corelation! By comparison, most employees understand they are paid in exchange for correct work and appropriate behavior. I doubt that your troublesome employee would have acted that way at his or her interview for the job!

The next time you’re tempted to tip toe around an employee to avoid making him or her upset, or you dread talking to an employee about something you know will get an unpleasant reaction, think about parenting advice and do what you need to do without apology.  You may have to deal with a temper tantrum, but at least then you will have something specific to correct–and you will be in charge.

Don’t provide a pacifier to an adult, even one more day. Everyone else will respect you more and eventually even the challenging employee will be more calm. (Or maybe he or she will run away and live in some other organization!)

January 14th, 2009 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 15 comments