Dealing With an Employee Who Does Not Fit In
Dealing With an Employee Who Does Not Fit In

We’ve all had this experience. There’s an employee in your organization whose temperament, work style, or skill level does not match what you want and need. It creates tension and unhappiness all around. Dealing with an employee who does not fit in is not easy. It needs fixing, and fast.

You’ve probably lost sleep over this, asking yourself questions such as:

  • Why doesn’t he respond to emails more quickly?
  • Why is her work so sloppy?
  • Why does she make everyone tense?
  • What am I not more comfortable with him?
  • Why did we hire her in the first place?

In my former life, I worked as an executive level manager at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland (JHU). JHU has a phenomenal HR system. I have had to deal with many difficult employees whose attitude, skills, and/or temperament did not match that of the workplace.

As a Virtual Assistant who chose this lifestyle and profession after leaving the corporate world, I am available for more than just administration, content creation and project management. You can brainstorm with me, and I’m happy to share my wealth of experience from the corporate and academic worlds with you when called upon. Here’s what I’d suggest when you are wrestling with this kind of situation…

First of all, we would need to discuss the following:

1. WHY is the person not working out?
2. Can the person improve? Is he willing to?
3. Do you retain or dismiss the person?

Although it seems intuitive, JHU’s recommendations are good ones to keep in mind:

1. An initial meeting aimed at bringing the problem to the employee’s attention, and examining it from all perspectives.
2. Lay out specific, realistic, measurable plan of action for improvement with a time frame and metrics included.
3. Create a mutually acceptable check-in schedule for monitoring progress.
4. Discuss and implement a plan for “what happens if” the improvement plan does not actually alter behavior or work quality in the determined time period.

The important part of this is that the entire exercise is done in concert with the employee – not behind his back. In that way, you are empowering your employee with your trust, your honesty, and your belief in his capacity and desire to improve.

Here’s an example of how this works in real life. One of my clients is a boutique California software firm. They needed to hire a software developer, and it was my job to do the initial sourcing and research. After vetting several candidates, we selected one and jumped in.

We laid out our expectations in writing, discussed how important it was for there to be consistent communication, and we started the relationship with great enthusiasm all around.

Well, within a week we knew something was wrong. Our emails went unanswered and no work was being done.

Where had we gone wrong?

Time for the first meeting. We discussed with the developer what we felt the problems were and asked him how he thought we should fix it. He promised to be more communicative and put in more time. We agreed to give him time to improve.

We gave it another week and then realized it was not going to happen. His understanding of “good communication” and “responsiveness” differed from ours in many ways. We scheduled a meeting and expressed to him that clearly our expectations did not fit with his work style. He was very grateful for our honesty, and after we thanked him for his efforts, we cut our ties.

When you find yourself in a situation like this – with a vendor, employee or partner – approach it as a way to make life better for your company and for the employee. The bottom line is that neither you nor the employee is happy – and perhaps, if improvement doesn’t happen, both will be better off without each other.

If you end up cutting ties with your square peg, go find a round one, armed with a bit more wisdom and experience.

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