The office is no place for horror movies, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a few nightmare co-workers roaming around. What should you do when there’s a herd of the walking dead raising hell? Or a werewolf who won’t stop howling? Here are some ways to spot the monsters and fend them off before they take over the office.
The trick: Ever deal with a co-worker who seems to drain the life out of you or your team? Then you might have an office vampire on your hands. Your energy levels always take a nose-dive around them, and it’s all you can do to not fly off into the night.
The treat: Try and stay optimistic, but realistic – there’s already enough pessimism going around the office. Criticism can be a good thing, but if an employee is just being negative, take control of the conversation and steer it towards a more constructive path. If it’s a matter of attitude, pull the employee aside and be assertive, not aggressive. Let them know that their behaviour needs adjustment – too much negativity for the sake of negativity is like a tourniquet to any company’s lifeblood.
The trick: Let’s face it, zombie recruits or ‘the working dead’ can be lethal. When an employee is feeling uninspired and unmotivated, they are a worker in name only – it’s a body in a chair, but nobody’s home.
The treat: Un-barricade the doors, take precautions to prevent the disease from spreading and contain the situation, stat! Figure out why the employee is feeling, shall we say, less than enthusiastic for their work lately. Have they been stuck doing too much drone work? Do they feel like they can’t relate to co-workers, or that no one listens to them? HR professionals are in the best place to assess the employee’s skills, give feedback and find ways to better engage them through new projects or opportunities in the company. This can be enough to bring them back to life.
The trick: One or two gripes is fair, but if you have an employee who is constantly howling about everything and anything, it can be hard to please them – and that’s when the claws come out. It might not be every day, but there is definitely a pattern to their whinging – it’s chronic, and it follows a regular cycle.
The treat: You want your staff to feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns, but there is a line between a complaint, and complaining. You need to set the tone for how employees discuss issues within the office: Is it a reasonable concern about something that potentially impacts their job performance? If yes, then assure them you will do what you can to solve the problem. Otherwise, establish boundaries, stick with them and explain to workers (individually) that they need to pick their battles.
The trick: Ah, yes, the absentee manager or employee who avoids certain tasks like the plague. Passivity can be a problem, particularly with leaders who don’t effectively lead. Either they don’t interfere until things become serious, or they take a laissez-faire approach to most of their managerial duties – then fade away into the background. It’s almost like they aren’t even there to begin with.
The treat: Don’t let flaky managerial styles haunt the office. Tailor your approach to fit with how much work you think the employee needs: Would a one-off meeting be enough? Or is an on-going, continual conversation better? Let them know you are here to lend a helping hand, but be firm that they need to make their presence around the office more substantial. This means being an active leader and not disappearing at the first sign of conflict.
The trick: When someone’s work habits are cobbled together from many past work experiences, any bad habits can be hard to kill. You don’t want to fire them, but this employee’s teammates can whip up into an angry mob if the behaviour is left unchecked.
The treat: No one is perfect, so try and put yourself in their shoes – if the worker has a long history, chances are the habit has been reinforced at some previous place of employment. Ask, rather than tell; don’t lecture employees about the bad habit and instead ask questions to get at the root cause. Once you’ve sussed it out, suggest tactics to help the employee manage the behaviour and address their triggers.