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Problem Employee or Potential Opportunity?

This is the first of a three-part series. First, I will be discussing the factors that shape how we label problem employees.

Have you ever worked with a "Negative Nancy?" Or supervised one? If so, how did the individual get this label? When I have joined a new company, one of the first things people generally point out is the "problem children." If we are not careful, other's experiences can influence our views and opinions. Years ago, as an inexperienced manager, there were instances where these types of conversations impacted how I viewed such individuals. The effects of this included me being more critical of the individual or providing them with less grace than other team members. These were not intentional actions. However, I unfortunately let the opinions of others shape my behavior. The question I would pose to you today is, are you letting others' experiences sabotage a potential opportunity or productive relationship with the labeled employee, before you have ever interacted with them?

How do we avoid the pitfall of negative labeling?

I would suggest making an effort to be conscious of negative labels to avoid the ill effects of preconceived notions. Ask yourself, what have my personal experiences been with Nancy? The label may have originated from an experience someone had six years ago... Unfortunately, the label can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as the label effects behavior of both teammates and Nancy.

A follow-on suggestion would be to have a one-on-one conversation with the labeled employee. This will allow you to develop your own impressions of the individual. You may discover an individual who has plenty to offer but has not been given the chance to be a valuable team member. Given the opportunity and support, they could become your biggest champion for the organization.

Next week we’ll take this a step further and explore, “People problem or process problem?”

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