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‘Basket case’ employee must be taught to restrain emotions


June 23. 2013 1:00AM
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Q.: I recently hired an employee who appears to be a high-strung basket case. “Shannon” is experienced and intelligent, but working with her is almost unbearably exhausting. Every phone call lasts at least an hour, and most of our face-to-face meetings end in tears. Her lengthy emails are all marked “Urgent!”


With Shannon, every little thing becomes a major deal. She emailed me repeatedly for two days about the exact wording on her business cards. Shannon can perform well when she’s focused, so I know she has potential. But her office-mate is ready to drive off a bridge just to get some peace. What should I do about this?


A.: The key question is whether Shannon can control this excessive emotionality. If not, then retaining her would be unfair to both her co-workers and the business. When a chronically disruptive employee wreaks havoc on morale and productivity, the only responsible choice is to let that person go.


If Shannon is currently in a new-hire probationary status, you will need to make this decision quickly. Give her a chance to improve by providing clear expectations and frequent feedback. Focus only on work-related issues and avoid the temptation to critique her personality. To circumvent legal landmines, consult your human resources manager or labor attorney.


If Shannon is able to consistently demonstrate self-control, perhaps she can achieve the potential you see in her. But if her unrestrained emotional needs continue to be a drain and a distraction, then you should end her employment during the probationary period. Otherwise, you may be living with this problem for a long, long time.


Q: For several years, my work as a project manager has not been very fulfilling. Although management occasionally tosses a new assignment my way, the job never really changes much. Recently, I was disappointed to learn that I had not been considered for a newly created position. Someone from outside was hired instead.


I have become extremely discouraged, because I see no way to improve this situation. Talking with my supervisor won’t help, because I have had four different bosses in the past five years. Do you have any suggestions?


A: Revolving-door management is a pretty sure sign of an organization in turmoil. When the environment is in a constant state of flux, employee morale and development tend to be overlooked, so work frequently becomes less rewarding.


Project-focused people are often especially frustrated, because new managers tend to replace the pet projects of predecessors with their own initiatives. After several such changes, project team members may conclude that nothing they do will ever have a lasting impact.


Although you’re undoubtedly tired of breaking in new bosses, the wisest short-term strategy is to develop a strong partnership with your manager-of-the-moment. That way, you might have an advocate the next time a potentially rewarding opportunity comes along. But if the chaos continues, the only long-term solution is to find a more stable place to work.


Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”




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