I have a problem with one of my directs who is a 60 year old man, who's wife has brain tumor and a heart condition. He has worked in my team for a little over a month. The former team leader that employed him warned me about his unprofessional behaviour in his team, though after meeting the direct, I thought he was overreacting.

And now things are getting out of hand:

- He is dominant and a rambler, he is more than twice the age of the rest of the team (including me), thus behaving like he is a co-manager.

- He disrupts my meetings and has during one of them shouted to another direct (in front of the whole team) with a speech about how the other was late which is disrespectful for me and the team - and then added a racist comment to it.

- Complains that he is the only senior in the team, and it is very hard to work with people that are as old as his grandchildren.

- Has now, in two incidents, shouted to colleagues in public.

- Talks constantly about his wife who is sick, making the whole team lose motivation.


My issue is now this: as much as I talk to him, and explain to him how his behaviour affects the team negatively, cut him down in meetings, and have a very serious talk about discrimination, he is not changing or getting out of control (obviously due to his wife being very sick). Nothing I say seems to get through, especially when he disturbs me in the middle of what I am saying.

He has now been forced to have a sick leave and seek help; his mental instability is making things get out of hand. However, when he comes back, how do you deal with such a direct?

// I manage a team of 9 people, first-time manager for 8 months now.

damcg63's picture
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Wow - I do not envy you on this - especially as a first time manager.  This is one of the harder people things you will see.  I have been in (sort of) similar situations and I hope this is some use to is along the lines of what I have done:

1.  He is on leave now, but you must plan for his return now.  This should involve Human Resources.

 - Do you have an HR rep?  Get with that person and start planning what it will be like when he returns.  Make sure you are familiar with leave policy and keep in touch with his situation through them (within HIPAA guidelines) - THEY should keep tabs on him.

2.  You must make a decision on where you will fall on this issue - and commit to it.

-  Here's the hard part....where do you fall on this?  In my case I decided I would go to the mat for my employee (and committed to it) - and let them care for their spouse and work as best they can.  I figured if I was going to get in trouble, I wanted it to be for something that would allow me to have peace.  Day in and day out, this was not easy...but I reminded myself that I committed and I would apply myself more.

3.  Set up the 'day one meeting' - for level setting.

This is their first day need to be prepared.  Find out the situation from HR - is their spouse in remission, or, worst case, what if they lost their spouse?.   The first session is with you (and with HR if you wish)  1) Acknowledge their situation and say the things that need to be said because you care for your team member as a person.  2)  Tell them you are glad their back as part of the team and that the team is eager to see them - and smile.  3)  Tell them the progress you've made with the team - so they do not feel too left out - tell him this is why you're doing it - so he can feel up to speed.  4)  Set up a business one on one level-set for Day 2.

Day 2:  One on one: 1) Reiterate how glad you are that they're back. 2) Ask what they think they can handle and appropriately delegate (use the MT Model) what their next work items will be.  3) When you re-confirm with them what success will be on their work items - then introduce the topic of 'how' you want them to go about it.  Don't confront ...but acknowledge some differences of opinion you've had with them.  Get them to agree that their fitting in is key to team success.   Then tell them up front that you will watch for behavior that is ineffective and come up with a signal (private) that you will use to call out when it is happening - so they can be more effective.   Tell them you will have a standing agenda item on this aspect of their performance at each one on one to discuss this - because you care about success of the team and about his success too.  Say 'Does this sound ok?' - acknowledge it may feel funny the first few times, but commit to making it work.  Repeat that you feel good about having them back...

4.  Stick with it - use your O3 to keep your agreement and coaching in the foreground.

5.  Re-evaluate after 6 months.


Good luck....hope some of this is useful and that it does not sound trite in the face of a difficult situation.




wendii's picture
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It's a difficult situation to be in - we're here to support you.


Djulin's picture

Thank you very much for your reply! This will help a lot, and I will start considering these guidelines when he is away to be more prepared when he comes back.