Employee from Hell #14: Issues with Authority


This is about the employee who’s convinced that he’s quite good at what he does, and that you, the boss, are pretty much a moron. If you have an employee like this, take heart, it’s not just you. The Issues with Authority employee doesn’t seem to like taking direction from anyone.

Actually, the Issues with Authority employee usually is quite good at what he does. And most often, it’s not the authority, per se, that he rebels against. You’ll find that what he really doesn’t like is to be told what to do in public. He typically has a very strong need to be perceived by those around him as being highly competent. When someone gives him direction, he translates this into a slight to his judgment and competency, and he doesn’t want others to see this. The challenge with this individual is that the negative behavior triggered by this can be extremely damaging to a team’s performance. It is very important that you deal with it.

The first thing is to recognize that you’ll get the most productivity and best attitude from him if you provide your direction, or coach him, privately. When you do, reinforce with him your confidence in his abilities and his skills. Ask for his feedback, or for any suggestions as to how the process might be improved. Let him know that you are, at least, smart enough to recognize his competency.

Should his authority-challenged behavior in the workplace continue, however, it is critical that you deal with it. Here are three steps you should follow:

1. Set up a meeting

Be frank and direct about the behaviors that are not acceptable.

2. Begin with a positive approach

Ask what you can do to alleviate the things that he appears cynical about. Listen to his response and, if it’s positive, set up an action plan.

3. Be prepared for corrective action

If he does not respond positively, move to a progressive discipline strategy. Let him know that you expect a change in his attitude and behavior, and that failure to do so could lead to more serious consequences.

It’s not a fun thing to do, but it is necessary.

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