There’s article after article about dealing with problematic employers. This is understandable; the world does have more employees than employers, after all. But let’s not forget the common woes of the everyday boss. There’s a lot to handle when you have several employees.
What are the common problems? How are they exacerbated? And what can be done about them? This article looks into the most common problems employees pose to their employers.
Negativity: passive-aggressiveness and bad attitudes
Obviously, in a perfect world, every employee would have an unwavering positive attitude. But reality isn’t a perfect world. Even the best of us have bad days.
You should become familiar with the behaviour of all your employees. This will allow you to identify people with persistent bad attitudes. It will also highlight to you the employees with good attitudes. Recognising both is important. If an employee has had a bad attitude from day one, it might be time to get rid of them. If a usually-stellar employee starts souring, then a serious problem has emerged for them, either at the office or at home.
How does a bad attitude manifest in the office? It may be direct and obvious, with angry outbursts and insults. But the most common sign is passive-aggressiveness. An employee isn’t likely to express problems directly. Their displeasure will be expressed through indirect, possibly snide means. Pay close attention to their speech and email correspondence. This is a good way to analyse behaviour.
This attitude may also be seen in their work output; they may not be as productive as before. Don’t automatically assume they lack the ability or motivation to do their job. You should work with the employee to find out what has triggered this mood change. Convince them to be honest. If it is a personal issue, consider giving them a couple of days off to fix the issue or recuperate.
Remember to speak to employees face-to-face. People are good at hiding behind emails. In fact, passive-aggressive behaviour is usually expressed in emails. Speaking face-to-face will ensure that your concern is seen as genuine. The tone of an email can be misinterpreted in many ways as it simply doesn’t allow for a lot of the nuances of regular speech.
Nip this problem in the bud. You don’t want that negativity spreading to other employees!
Where are you?: absenteeism and microbreaks
This problem is as old as business itself. Employees either not being at their desk enough, or not even being in the office at all.
We should, of course, recognise the importance of allowing workers to leave their desks. Let’s say you have shifts lasting eight hours, split by an hour-long break in the middle. Do we want employees sitting down non-stop for two four-hour stretches? Well, maybe the cold, business-driven parts of us do. But employees aren’t robots, they’re human beings.
It’s common for employers to allow their workers to leave their desk for a few minutes at a time as they wish, within reason. Grabbing a tea or coffee, or going for a smoke break, or just standing outside for some fresh air. These little ‘microbreaks’ are actually good for productivity and motivation. But it can also be difficult to keep track of them. Employers should consider collaborating with employees to record time and attendance. As long as productivity is kept strong, there should be nothing wrong with spending some time away from the desk.
Here but not here: social media and other distractions
Many strict employers miss the days where all it took was only allowing certain websites to be visited on the network. But so many businesses these days require open access to the Internet. Not only this, but you have smartphones to consider. Maybe you’ve blacklisted Twitter and Facebook from your office network. But an employee can still whip their phone out under their desk to visit distracting websites.
As with microbreaks, many employers don’t mind the occasional visit to fun websites. Again, it’s all about work output. As long as the employee is doing their work in the time given to them, it’s not too much of a problem. But if you want them to be focussed throughout the entirety of their shift, you will need to make sure they have enough to do. Make sure they have clear deadlines for each task. This will keep some pressure on them. If they are told simply to complete the task, they may overestimate their ability to mix fun with business.
It may sound overzealous, but it’s worth manually checking what a worker is up to. The occasional wander around the office, complete with quick glances at computer screens, will reveal much to you. Keep a note of those you see on distracting websites. If the same names appear often, you may have to have a word with them.