Are you held hostage by problem employees?

Karen Benz
BetterManager Executive Coach

March 20, 2018

You Don't Have to Be a Hostage to Productivity!

It’s important to keep in mind the big picture when evaluating employee job performance. Are the employee’s talents, skills, abilities, and knowledge aligned with their attitude, interpersonal skills as well as your expectations and the needs of the organization?

Have you ever heard a manager say, “Mary is a great worker, I just wish she didn’t cause so much trouble”! or “She is great at her job. I just don’t trust her”!

Let’s take a look at Mary. She has been with the company for 10 years. Known as an employee who has high productivity, she is often at odds with the rest of the team.  It seems her approach to getting things done doesn’t involve improving her interpersonal skills. She is demanding, condescending with those who can’t keep up, has a huge ego, and doesn’t see her relationships with others as key to her success or the success of the company. Her attitude is, “I do my job better than anyone. So what’s the problem”?

The problem is that when looking at “the big picture,” we see Mary as someone who is not a team player, who doesn’t value and nurture key relationships and who feels superior to others in many ways. This is a recipe for a team and management disaster if not dealt with effectively.

How to Navigate this Difficult Conversation

When managers come across a Mary, they can sometimes be reluctant to confront the “soft skills” side of performance and instead, focus on the hard skills and output. This does a great disservice to both the organization and to the employee. Mary is not in alignment with corporate values. She is not a valuable team player. And most certainly, Mary is not valued by her peers and colleagues. When dealing with a Mary, ask yourself, “Am I tolerating Mary’s behavior because of her productivity? What is the cost to the team and to the organization if things don’t change?”

Don’t be held hostage by the Marys of the workplace.  Learn to confront respectfully and in a “carefrontational” way. Develop a performance improvement/management plan that will provide Mary with an opportunity to improve.  Show her the value she brings, and the opportunity to increase her value. Be clear in your expectations.  Be specific, have examples and be fair. Let her know what you will no longer tolerate. Identify areas where she has a choice to make and where the choice will be made for her if changes do not occur. Revisit these issues with her weekly or bi-weekly. Look for change and positively reinforce it and, most importantly, follow-through on all aspects of your performance plan.

Karen Benz is Head Coach and DISC Program Facilitator with BetterManager in San Francisco, CA. In addition to her work with BetterManager, Karen is on the Faculty in the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University.  For more information, contact

Episode Transcript

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March 20, 2018