Dealing with Employees Who Want to Run the Show

Last Updated on December 27, 2023 by Milton Campbell

Dealing with employees who want to run the show can be a challenging task for managers and team leaders. These individuals often display behaviors that hinder teamwork, undermine authority, and impact overall productivity. However, with the right strategies and approaches, it is possible to address these issues effectively and create a more harmonious work environment.

Identifying the Signs of a Problematic Employee

Addressing issues in the workplace often requires nuance and tact, especially when dealing with difficult employees. Before tackling the issue head-on, understanding the signs and indicators of this type of employee is essential. Here are some of the common signs of a problematic employee:

1. Constantly Challenges Authority

A problematic employee doesn’t hesitate to challenge authority constantly, even when it’s unnecessary or disruptive. This issue isn’t about healthy debates or questioning trends, because those can foster creativity and innovation. The problem arises when an employee is consistently confrontational or refuses to follow established rules and protocols.

2. Disregards Team Decisions

An effective team often works together to make collective decisions. If an employee regularly dismisses or undercuts these decisions, then they may become a problem. This can breed conflict within a team and negate the collaborative environment necessary for a successful workplace.

3. Micromanages Others

If an employee is frequently micromanaging colleagues, it might be a signal of a problematic personality. Even if they’re not in a leadership or supervisory position, the problematic employee often tries to control their colleagues’ methods of work, invading their autonomy and potentially undermining productivity.

4. Poor Performance and Productivity

A decline in an employee’s work performance or productivity can also be a sign. Everyone has off days, but a consistent drop in output or sub-par outcomes can negatively impact the entire team’s morale and results.

5. Negative Attitude

A persistent negative attitude can be infectious, bringing the entire team’s morale down. A problematic employee may often display pessimism, criticism and resentment, which can gradually erode the team’s positivity and cohesiveness.

6. Frequently Absent or Late

While life emergencies and illnesses are understandable, frequent tardiness or absences without valid reasons can be a sign of a problematic employee. This habit not only impacts their work but also adds undue stress to the rest of the team that has to cover their workload.

Recognizing these signs early will allow you to address the problem proactively and save your team from unnecessary stress or disruptions. It’s essential to approach the situation delicately, offering support while communicating consequences, to help nurture a more positive and productive work environment.

Addressing the Issue Directly with a Problematic Employee

Once you’ve identified that an employee might be causing difficulties within your team, addressing the issue directly is an essential next step. This process needs to be handled with sensitivity and careful consideration for both the individual’s feelings and the overall team morale. Here is a step-by-step approach to deal with the problem:

1. Schedule a One-on-One Meeting

The first step is to arrange a private, one-on-one meeting with the employee in question. Public discussions about personal issues can lead to embarrassment or resentment. Make sure to schedule the meeting at a time that is least disruptive to the employee’s work.

2. Planning Your Discussion

Before meeting, take the time to plan your discussion. Relevant materials such as specific incidents, performance metrics, and feedback from colleagues can be helpful. Try to approach the conversation from a place of understanding and a genuine desire to help the problem employee improve.

3. Express the Concerns Clearly

During the meeting, articulate your concerns about their actions or behavior clearly and precisely. Use concrete examples rather than generalizations. Be clear about the specific actions or attitudes that are causing problems, and explain why they’re an issue.

4. Engage in Active Listening

It’s crucial to allow the employee to share their perspective. Active listening aids in understanding their point of view and affirms that their feelings and opinions are valued. It also provides deeper insight into any possible root causes of the behavior.

5. Provide Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback will be beneficial for the employee to recognize the impact of their behaviors. When providing feedback, use a positive and supportive tone – instead of blaming or criticizing. Encourage the employee to find ways to improve and ask if they need any particular support or resources.

6. Agree on an Action Plan

The final step is to create an action plan with clear expectations for change. Ensure the employee understands what is required of them moving forward. It’s a good idea to have periodic check-ins to track progress and provide additional guidance if necessary.

Remember, the overall goal is to help the employee make positive changes that will benefit themselves and the team. Treat them with respect and empathy throughout the process to ensure the best possible outcome.

Understanding the Motivations Behind Employees Who Want to Run the Show

Unpacking the motivations behind an employee’s problematic behavior is a key step in resolving workplace issues. What may initially come across as disruptive or negative behavior can often stem from deeper issues that the employee is grappling with. Here’s how to gain insights into their motivations and use that understanding to promote positive change:

1. Open Dialogue

Encourage open conversations where employees can express their ideas, concerns, frustrations, and aspirations. An environment that respects and encourages transparency can help reveal the motivations behind their behavior.

2. Analyzing Behavior Patterns

Watch out for patterns in their behavior. For instance, do they tend to challenge authority more when working on certain tasks or with certain people? Recognizing these patterns can shed light on what triggers their problematic behavior.

3. Seeking Recognition

Sometimes, people who seem to overstep their boundaries may be seeking recognition. This desire often stems from feeling unappreciated or overlooked. If this is the case, quality feedback and recognition can go a long way in addressing the issue.

4. Feeling Unfulfilled

An employee might behave problematically when they feel unfulfilled or bored in their current role. Exploring this possibility involves understanding their current job satisfaction, their career aspirations, and how well their current role aligns with these elements.

5. Lack of Confidence in the Team

If an employee lacks confidence in the team, they may try to assume control inappropriately. Ensuring team members have opportunities to showcase their skills and contribute to decisions can help instill confidence in the team’s abilities.

6. Personal Issues

Problem behavior at work can sometimes be a manifestation of personal issues. A supportive and understanding approach is important when addressing these scenarios. Employee assistance programs or referral to professional help might be necessary in these cases.

Understanding the motivations behind an employee’s behavior is a critical first step towards finding effective solutions. Initiating supportive dialogues to address the root causes of the issues can often yield positive results, including improved employee behavior and a healthier work environment.

Setting Clear Expectations and Boundaries to Deal with Employees

Clarifying your expectations and defining clear boundaries is a critical aspect of dealing with problematic employees. Providing a clear understanding of their roles and the professional etiquette expected in the workplace can contribute to improving their behavior. Here’s how you can do that:

1. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Ensure that job descriptions are comprehensive, explaining exactly what the role entails and what responsibilities are expected. Being vague or ambiguous can cause confusion and give the employee room to overstep bounds.

2. Highlight the Importance of Teamwork

Stress the importance of working as part of a team. Explain that while individual contributions are crucial, it’s teamwork that ultimately leads to achieving organizational goals. Each team member has a unique role to play, and success hinges on everyone respecting and supporting these roles.

3. Establish Protocols and Guidelines

Establish a code of conduct that outlines the behavior expected from every employee. This should encompass communication etiquette, respectful interaction among coworkers, adherence to company policies, respect for diversity and inclusion, and adherence to assigned tasks and responsibilities.

4. Communicate Performance Standards

Clarify what ‘good performance’ looks like in their role. This includes both their tasks and how they interact with their colleagues. Regular performance reviews or evaluations can be useful to keep a track of their progress and provide feedback.

5. Be Assertive Yet Respectful

While setting these boundaries, be firm and assertive, but also respectful. This shows the employee that while their problematic behavior is not tolerated, they are still a valuable part of the team.

6. Provide Regular Feedback

Regular feedback sessions can further reinforce expectations and boundaries. Constructive feedback can help the employee understand what they’re doing well and where they need to improve.

Through setting clear expectations and boundaries, a disruptive or problematic employee can better understand their role within the team, making the work environment more comfortable and productive for everyone involved.

Communicating the Vision and Goals of the Team

Making sure employees grasp the vision and goals of the team can redirect problematic behaviors into constructive channels. It can help problematic employees understand that they are part of a larger entity working towards common objectives. Here’s how to effectively communicate these elements:

1. Clearly Articulate the Team Vision

A clear, compelling vision gives team members a common purpose to unite them. Make sure this vision is something tangible that every team member can picture. The more vivid it is, the more likely team members are to commit to it.

2. Break Down Team Goals

To help the team understand what they’re working toward, break down the team’s goals into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives. This breakdown makes it easier to understand what each goal involves and tracks progress.

3. Show How Individual Roles Contribute to Team Goals

Each member should understand how their role directly contributes to achieving team goals. This understanding fosters a sense of value and belonging, making each member more likely to cooperate and collaborate with the rest of the team, reducing instances of overstepping.

4. Reinforce the Importance of Every Role

Make sure to stress that all roles, no matter how big or small, are critical for the overall success of the team. This reinforcement can help problematic employees understand the significance of their role and discourage the need to take over others’ tasks.

5. Encourage Open Dialogue

Welcome questions and suggestions after sharing the vision and goals. An open dialogue allows team members to understand better, express concerns, or provide input in forming the team’s fundamental objectives.

By communicating the team’s vision and goals clearly, you can help all employees feel an integral part of the team’s success, including those who may have problematic behaviors. Understanding how their role fits into the larger picture encourages adherence to their assigned tasks and respects others’ roles with the aim to reach common goals.

Delegating Responsibilities and Empowering Other Team Members

Creating an environment where everyone feels entrusted with tasks and gets opportunities to contribute can mitigate the actions of an employee who tends to overstep their role. Here’s how you can delegate responsibilities and empower others within the team:

1. Encourage Ownership and Responsibility

Creating a work culture that encourages ownership and responsibility fosters confidence among team members. Each member taking full ownership of their tasks allows everyone to focus on their individual roles and discourages one employee from trying to control everything.

2. Distribute Tasks Based on Skill Sets

When delegating tasks, evaluate your team’s unique skills and assign tasks consequently. This approach ensures that tasks are done by those most capable and boosts job satisfaction by aligning tasks with individuals’ abilities.

3. Empower Decision-Making

Encourage team members to make decisions within their purview. A sense of autonomy can increase performance and self-confidence among team members. This also reduces the opportunities for the problematic employee to take control where it’s not necessary.

4. Ensure Equal Contribution

Strive to ensure that every team member has the chance to contribute in their own way. A balanced division of work decreases the likelihood of any one person trying to dominate or subvert the roles of others.

5. Provide Appropriate Training

If there are gaps in certain team members’ skills, consider providing appropriate training. When team members feel competent and confident in their tasks, they’re less likely to rely on a dominant colleague.

6. Recognize and Appreciate Individual Contributions

Notice and acknowledge the individual contributions made by each team member. This practice not only encourages continued high performance, but it also reassures team members that their work is valuable and essential.

By fostering an environment of shared responsibilities and empowerment, you create a more balanced and interdependent team dynamic. This approach channels the energies of dominant employees into constructively contributing to the team, rather than trying to control everything.

Involvement of Human Resources in Managing Problematic Employees

Human Resources (HR) plays a critical role in addressing issues related to problematic employees in the organization. HR can provide help and guidance in managing such cases, ensuring that the situation is handled professionally and maintaining a healthy work environment. Here’s how to involve HR in effectively managing problematic employees:

1. Reporting the Issue

Once an issue is identified with an employee’s behavior that requires intervention, make sure to report it to the HR department. Documentation of incidents and their impacts can help HR understand the gravity of the issue.

2. Consult HR for Guidance

Given their professional expertise, HR can guide managers on the best course of action to handle a problematic employee. They can provide advice on communicating with the employee, setting clear expectations, and other potential measures.

3. Collaboration on Performance Improvement Plans

HR can collaborate with managers to develop a performance improvement plan (PIP) for the employee in question. A PIP is a formal document outlining the behavioral issues to be addressed and the suggested improvements.

4. Mediation Sessions

In case of ongoing issues or disputes, HR can conduct mediation sessions between the concerned parties. They can facilitate open and constructive conversations, aiming to resolve the conflict and enhancing work relations.

5. Training and Workshops

HR can usher in training programs and workshops aimed at mitigating problematic behaviors and promoting a positive work culture. These programs can range from conflict management to stress management, leadership skills, and team-building exercises.

6. Initiate Disciplinary Actions

If the problematic behavior persists despite several interventions, HR may need to initiate disciplinary actions. This process could include formal warnings, retraining, suspension, or, in extreme cases, termination of employment.

Involving HR is an important step in handling problematic employees, as it ensures that the concerns are addressed professionally and ethically. Leveraging HR’s expertise and resources can assist in setting the path to a more positive and harmonious workplace.

In Conclusion

By implementing these effective strategies and approaches, managers can effectively deal with employees who want to run the show. Building a collaborative work environment, addressing issues directly, and empowering employees can help create a more harmonious and productive team.