I remember it like it was yesterday. I walked into Bob’s office and he was chugging Maalox like it was a bottle of cold beer on a hot day.
It was no wonder; Bob’s job was incredibly stressful. He worked long hours to accomplish nearly impossible deadlines. To Bob’s credit, he was bright, talented, and willing to do anything to get the job done. To his detriment he was an autocratic perfectionist who totally lacked people skills.
He supervised a staff of six to eight technical people who were hired and fired (or quit) with scary regularity. Today we’d call Bob’s department a hostile environment, back then we called it hell. We walked on pins and needles never knowing who would be his next target.
When staff approached Bob’s supervisor about the situation we were told to be team players and work together. Bob was getting the job done and talent like his was rare. In other words, “Bob is more important than you. Suck it up and shut up.”
Today’s working environment is different. Interpersonal and communication skills are highly valued and training is readily available.
But there are still employers and owners who make excuses for talented employees who are difficult to work with. They negate the situation by saying “That’s just the way he is, don’t take it personally.” Meanwhile performance and morale suffer.
If you have a difficult employee in your organization, addressing the situation candidly with the individual is important. Explain the value they bring to the company and the negative impact their behavior is having on the organization. Give the employee the opportunity to change. Offer appropriate training or coaching to help them develop more effective interpersonal skills.
If the employee refuses to admit he has a problem, blames others for his actions or feels he doesn’t need training, do yourself, your employees and your company a favor and let him go.