Managing the soap opera star in your workplace
“What can I do with my problem employee? Her life is a soap opera, and every day she brings the latest episode to work!” This urgent plea came from an audience member during my keynote on dealing with difficult people.
She continued, “As her manager I’ve tried to be a caring and empathetic listener. But she thinks she’s the only employee in the company who has personal problems, and that it’s OK to bring them to work and talk about them non-stop. She’s affecting our department’s productivity. Help!”
If you’re also struggling with this issue, these four talking points that I shared in my keynote can help your problem employee get the message:
1. You understand that serious situations can develop unexpectedly and impact an employee’s productivity. As a leader, however, you have certain expectations and cannot accept a drop in performance for every trivial yet stressful event that comes along.
2. Remember the fable of the little boy who cried, “Wolf”? Some employees treat every minor problem like a major catastrophe. When people make everything a crisis, no one takes them seriously when a real crisis comes along. Everyone must learn to separate the big problems from the little ones and respond accordingly – with professionalism and common sense.
3. In serious situations, it’s OK to ask for help. Some people think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In my work with organizations I’ve found the opposite to be true. It’s the strong and confident people who want to take charge, deal with the issue and find a workable solution as soon as possible.
4. You’re more willing to help if you’re apprised of extenuating circumstances before they impact morale, productivity and customer service. In the vast majority of cases, it’s not your responsibility to solve your employees’ problems. They must be willing to do their part and work with you as necessary and appropriate.
We all know that life isn’t perfect. As soon as we fix one problem, there’s another one waiting for us right around the corner. Managers and employees must work together to solve problems before they negatively impact the workplace. Today’s organizations certainly need “stars” at every level – but not the “soap opera star variety.” And in case you’re wondering…. Yes, these talking points can be modified to work with the difficult people in your personal life as well!