Don’t Ignore The Pot-Stirring Employee


unhappy.jpgThe Pot-Stirrer loves an injustice. He (she) lives to find real or imagined issues within the company, or even with you. He constantly questions decisions, and, like a dog with a bone, won’t let go of something once he’s got his teeth in it. To make matters worse, he just doesn’t seem to be happy until everyone at work is talking about it. The Pot Stirrer is almost always in the middle of workplace morale challenges.

This is the employee you lose sleep over. He’s fairly competent at what he does, but far from enthusiastic. You may have been thinking of firing him, but on what grounds? You’ve also been concerned about the negative impact that disciplining him might have on the rest of your employees. What message would it send?

For starters, the one thing you don’t want to do is ignore his behavior. Ignoring him will certainly not make things go away. You have to begin taking action, and the sooner the better. Time for corrective action. Here are the steps:

1. Document everything, with as much detail as possible.

2. Talk with him in private. Tell him you have some concerns about the effect his behavior is having on the rest of the team. Make sure that you have specific examples.

3. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Ask him if he is prepared to be a more positive team player. Listen to him.

4. Closely monitor his actions following your meeting. If he does turn his behavior around, make a point to acknowledge and thank him for the effort. If he falls back into his old ways, its time to move quickly into a progressive discipline strategy, which may lead to termination.

Sound harsh? Not really. People who negatively impact a team’s morale can be poison to an organization. Sometimes the direct approach is the best approach. How will your other employees respond? Be prepared – they might surprise you in a very positive way.

Note: Decisive action with the Pot-Stirrer is important, but as you may already have guessed, you absolutely need to make sure that all of your bases are covered. Before you do anything (including any suggestions in this issue) make sure you closely follow all applicable labor laws in your area!

Good Luck!

“Not taking action with a difficult employee sends the message to your good employees that they’re suckers”

[This is from the Archive Project – where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 17 October, 2005]

Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 23 years

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