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I recently began managing a long time employee who is obviously very disgruntled. Over the past several weeks, she has sent out a tirade of e-mails filled with ultimatums, paranoia, and orders to myself and my boss.

While not a top performer, she has a lot of experience and is close several to several of our staff and many of our customers. Apparently, her former boss gave her a list of objectives and promised her a promotion and $$ if she were to meet them. The problem is that these were subjective goals with no ability for them to be measured. For example: Improve Project Management Skills, Improve knowledge of Application A, Improve Customer Satisfaction.

Now, I feel that she did not improve in these areas sufficiently enough to warrant a large raise and promotion. So in her review, I provided very specific and measurable goals and told her that we would have regular checkpoints throughout the year... and there was no pay increase because she just got a raise 6 months ago.

So, she rifled off an e-mail that evening giving us "90 days to bring me up to salary X... or we would have to work out an exit plan." The desired increase was about 15%.

Two days later, she rifles off an e-mail to my boss demanding that the Customer Service Department "respond to their tickets" and wondering why she takes "time away from my family to create these tickets only to have them sit for 2 months."

Incidentally, each of these e-mails were riddled with typos. She is working at a client site this week and I have been in training so we have been unable to talk following these e-mails.

One more thing... A month ago, she sent us an e-mail indicating that she felt that we are distrustful and that we regularly try to "set her up" to look bad.

What do I do? My boss wants to fire her, but since she is newly working for me, I really want to try to help her. Also, there are only 1-2 other people in the department who has her experience in 1 specific area, and these people have since moved on to other positions.

AManagerTool's picture

[quote]So, she rifled off an e-mail that evening following us "90 days to bring me up to salary X... or we would have to work out an exit plan." The increase was about 15%. [/quote]

I play poker. I'd raise.

"We are not even considering your demand. I accept your resignation."

Now you don't have to fire her.

Mark's picture

Well, that won't work, but nice try.

Have one on ones. Fill them with feedback about all of her emails and typos.

Tell her you don't see her getting her raise within 90 days. Tell her you will begin looking into what you can do for an exit plan. Ask her if she intends to resign.

Either her story will change or she will quit.

Document (which is to say, take good notes).

Mark

tcomeau's picture

[quote="lefonquey1"]
What do I do? My boss wants to fire her, but since she is newly working for me, I really want to try to help her. Also, there are only 1-2 other people in the department who has her experience in 1 specific area, and these people have since moved on to other positions.
[/quote]

It's funny that these two sentences jumped out at me, because I was in the same position last year. I inherited a problem who was the only person doing a particular bit of work, and who had a big chip on his shoulder. He wanted a promotion and a raise, and it was "management's" fault that he was underappreciated.

He wasn't quite as bad as your case, but he had ticked off my new boss's deputy enough that it would have been pretty easy to "walk him out the door."

The fact that you paired these sentences suggests you've already figured out that you need to start getting her knowledge transferred to other people, if only to avoid the speeding bus problem. (What do we do if that person gets hit by a speeding bus?) At the same time, my observation is that threats of the form "do this or I'll quit" are rarely serious, and should never be rewarded.

I use the MT techniques because they work. Follow Mark's plan. While my problem is not completely solved, he's improving, and he's no longer the only guy in the building who knows about that work area.

tc>

lefonquey1's picture

Ok, the situation seems to be escalating... Here's the situation.

She is on the road this and next week. Another e-mail was sent to my boss last night indicating that one of her peers has "an offer from another job. You may want to talk to her before she says yes. We just can’t afford to loose her. She knows too much that no one else know."

My boss forwarded her e-mail to me and wants her gone. She and I have been unable to connect this week and if I pull her from the client site, it will seriously jeopardize this project.

Should I pull her from the client next week or should I wait to address this until she comes back week after next?

thanks in advance.

WillDuke's picture

[quote]My boss forwarded her e-mail to me and wants her gone.[/quote]
Put yourself in your boss's shoes. He or she wants this employee gone and has told you to do so. What is the most desirable picture to your boss?

1. Wait and get rid of her later, hopefully not doing too much damage to the project.
2. Fire her immediately jeopardizing the project.
3. Put another person on the project immediately and remove her.

Can you do number 3? Because it seems to me now that your boss has said to get rid of her your goal is to do so as quickly as possible.

lefonquey1's picture

[quote="WillDuke"][quote]Can you do number 3? Because it seems to me now that your boss has said to get rid of her your goal is to do so as quickly as possible.[/quote]

With such short notice, I really can't do #3... And I just talked my boss out of wanting to fire her immediately. I'll just have to write her up and watch her carefully.

My concern is do I wait to discuss this issue until she returns the week after next or should I try to do it today and potentially create a loose cannon at the client next week?

Up until now, these issues have all been under the hood and away from the client's perception.

WillDuke's picture

She's firing off emails to everyone she knows already. If you write her up, is she going to change her approach? Probably not.

What happens if you ask her to stop firing off these emails? Does she stop doing so, or does she ramp up even more? You know best, but my hunch is probably not.

How much are you putting on the line by convincing your boss to not fire her? When it all hits the fan are you suddenly more responsible because you said to keep her?

I'm all for giving an employee every chance. I'm all for the responsibility of the manager to make a good environment and develop directs. But the direct has some responsibility as well. If the direct is unwilling to do any work. If the direct is deliberately causing trouble Why continue the pain and suffering? Nobody is irreplaceable. There comes a time when you have to cut bait and deal with the consequences. They're not usually as bad as we think they'll be. Is your boss trying to tell you that?

wendii's picture

Lef,

I may be missing something obvious, but why can't you go to her?

Wendii

lefonquey1's picture

[quote="wendii"]Lef,

I may be missing something obvious, but why can't you go to her?

Wendii[/quote]

She's 500 miles away conducting a client training class... I'm afraid to create a loose cannon, so I thought I would consult the experts here before talking to her. She's going to call me tonight from the hotel.

AManagerTool's picture

Not for nothing, but despite what Mark thought about my first comment, I stand by it. I know, I know...I am wrong.....LOL :)

I'd also be concerned that she was badmouthing the firm at a client site!?! I think your boss is right and I agree with wendii. Why aren't you on a plane?

I am all for the kinder gentler approach and have sucessfully turned around my problem staff with the very tools Mark has given me. That said, I have a low tolerance for people that subvert the mission.

lefonquey1's picture

Ok, my mind has been thoroughly boggled...

I left her a voice mail yesterday afternoon on her cell phone asking her to call me when she got back to the hotel. When she called me back at 10:30 PM, she's very up beat and bordering on giddy. I ask her about the progress she's made and how the client is responding to her training class. She says that the training has gone very well and that the trip has been a resounding success. I mention her e-mails and tell her that I wanted to call to check in to made certain she is OK and to ask her if she's up to returning next week as she is scheduled.

Get this... she acts confused and asks me what e-mail I'm referring to. When I tell her she acts as though she does not recall the e-mail and says "oh, I must have been really pissed off that day." She goes on to say that she just wants us to know how hard she has been working and that she wants to impress us by her good work.

She's got no clue about the impact of these messages and how close she was to getting fired.

I've got a lot of work to do... Wish me luck!

mauzenne's picture

[quote="lefonquey1"]She's got no clue about the impact of these messages and how close she was to getting fired.[/quote]

Why not? What kind of feedback did you give her? Given her mood ("giddy"), simple feedback about the impacts of her behavior given with a smile in your voice would be a good first step.

When managers tell me their subordinates have "no clue" about the consequences of their behavior, I get concerned ...

regards,
Mike

ashdenver's picture

I may be reading way too much into this but my first thought when reading this thread in its entirety for the first time is that she may have a mental issue. If it's not bi-polar (angry/depressed to giddy/happy), there might be some intermittent explosive disorder (flies off the handle with little warning).

Regardless of what the underlying cause or issue is, I agree that there needs to be some feedback to her. "When you fire off these emails, people think you're a loose cannon. This adversely impacts your chances of a promotion and raise." Make it clear to her on a regular and consistent basis that SHE is in control of when that raise/promotion comes through.

I have known quite a few people who always seem to "live in the now" without full understanding or comprehension of how the past affects the present or how the present could impact the future. It's all about now. "I'm pissed off now so I'll send this email." There's no consideration of what comes next. There's no connection to "no raise now" relating to "angry email then."

This "in the now" thing is probably systemic for her. It's probably in her personal life, not just the office. This will make it harder to change because she's probably not going to get the formal, regular feedback outside of work which will make the process of change within the workplace twice as slow & long.

Personally, I would put some boundaries and consequences out there as soon as possible. "The next time you threaten to quit or leave, I will have to accept that as your resignation." If you do this, that will be the consequence. She seems to really need to know how much control she has over her fate cuz right now, it's always someone else's fault that her fate has fizzled (no raise, no promo.)

Ideally you would have some lesser boundaries/consequences to put forth (if you don't wash your hands after sneezing, I won't shake your hand) so that she can test them and you can prove to her that you [i]are [/i]100% serious, that the consequences [i]will [/i]happen as you stated them, that she [i]will [/i]have to watch herself more closely. To go directly to "if email, then resigned" is like heading straight to thermonuclear war without warning. It may be what she needs and it may be the only or most appropriate boundary/consequence to put forth but for someone who's never really been exposed to this type of interaction, she probably won't trust it and won't believe you when you say it so she'll push and test like she's always done.

Just remember: boundary/consequence isn't about blackmailing someone into doing something. It's about communicating what is acceptable and what the consequences are for unacceptable behaviour. Whatever consequence you state, you MUST be willing to follow-through on it. Without the follow-through, it's all just meaningless words.

WillDuke's picture

I agree with Mike, but have a more stark message for you. If she has no clue, you're not doing your job and giving her feedback.

Your description of the problem indicates that lots of these emails have been going around for a while. If that's the case, she should know by now what the effect of those emails is. And you should be the one telling her.

Okay, it's a new team to you, but it has been at least a month (from your initial post where you mentioned an email from a month ago.)

All of which, surprisingly, puts us right back into Mark's original comment. Are you doing the O3s and feedback consistently?