I have a group of 3 front office workers, all of them working part-time (50%), 2 every morning and 1 in the afternoon. Two of them just don't seem to get along, the third tries to keep out of the quarrel and keep the peace.

I have just been appointed their manager, so my insight in the problem is still limited.

The 'problem case' has returned from a burn-out situation and I feel she is not completely healed yet. There seems to be an issue with her work, both volume-wise and quality-wise. The previous manager agreed to her request that she be shown every mistake she makes and has set a weekly meeting to discuss this.

The 'trouble maker' is continually complaining about the lack of volume and errors. At each and every opportunity, which is already starting to annoy the hell out of me. ('yeah I came in a bit early today, and luckily so because I spent the first half hour correcting mistakes'). I see some very paranoid behavior, where she refuses to handle some tasks that are already late 'because then my name shows in the system and they will blame me for being late' or where she asks other managers to put comments into her files that certain actions were taken on their request. Very counterproductive... She tries to hijack our O3's and turn them into a half hour complaining session about her colleague. She goes through a lot of trouble to keep other people the focus of my attention and not discuss her own functioning in our O3's.

My thoughts on the situation: pointing out mistakes and singling out one person in a meeting seems counterproductive, especially if that person is still not at 100% mentally. I have yet to run reports from the system to see if the lack of volume is real or only perceived. I am however going to sit at the front office for one or two afternoons each week to see if I can get some insight in the quality of work and be more available for questions as well.

I am most worried about the 'trouble maker' at the moment. I'm not sure how to handle her. I want to get rid of the destructive behavior and improve the working atmosphere. Can you let me know your thoughts?

jonno12131's picture

The Problem Case. Despite any personal issues/feelings this person is allowing to filter into her work, you do need to provide feedback if there are negative or unproductive behaviours. At work, work comes first. If you sincerely feel that too much is being asked of her then you need to look at how work is delegated out and maybe switch a few things around. If not then I'd step in a bit closer to her work, make sure you understand her workload, ensure she is prioritising correctly, help her set deadlines, and make sure she is aware of the required quality standards, criteria, etc. for her deliverables.

The Trouble-Maker. You need to get them to focus on their work and not on the other people in the office. If they are doing good work, putting in extra hours, then give them positive feedback. If they are making accusations, casting blame, trying to make other people look bad, give them negative feedback. Tell them that the behaviour is unproductive, unprofessional, and that it is not their place to comment on the performance of their peers. Also look at the work they are doing.

Overall you need to ensure you are not showing favouritism to the problem case, and also that you expect professional and respectful behaviours in the work place.

scm2423's picture

I agree that if someone is not producing enough with respect to volume or quality that needs to be addressed.  But you do have some leeway here if this is a return to work situation, personal issues, etc.  One of the reasons you have a team of people doing the same job is that together they will get things done.  There may be times that one or two of them need to carry more of the workload.  It might not seem fair but that is why they call it work.

The real problem is your employee you have labelled troublemaker.  She is not being a team-player.  You need to give her feedback that the accusations, blame, etc are not helping her or the rest of the team.    One of the consequences of her actions is that as more and more people see this they will be less willing to work with her.  If she were to show some compassion and support people would show her the same.  As well the success or failure of your team will reflect upon her.    I would leave her with the a decision that if she feels that things are so bad and she cannot support the team more, she has the option for looking for something else.