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Thread: Rude, disrespectful bitter employee

  1. #1
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    Rude, disrespectful bitter employee

    Hi everyone

    A month ago, I changed jobs and came into a business I haven't worked in before as a manager of a large operation in a government department.

    A woman had been covering the role on temporary promotion (6 months) and who had worked in the business for years. Her temporary promotion ended when I came in and she went back down to being one of my direct reports. Initially I found her really helpful and friendly when she was doing a handover for a couple of weeks, but since then her behaviour has deteriorated badly.

    There was a seminar for all people of my direct reports' level which was mandatory - it's to do with leadership. She wanted to skip it but I told her she had to go as it wouldn't be fair she missed it but all her peers had to go. She has since been a nightmare - she told me she wouldn't learn anything as she's been managing longer than I and the other facilitators have, and went round the office in front of the teams slamming things. She later apologised, but she spent the whole seminar (which was only 15 people) filing her nails, checking her phone and generally doing everything to be as rude as possible. I also had to ask her a question and she was SO rude in her tone in front of other people. I've also since found out she's apparently running a 2 day course outside the office tomorrow and the day after, which she never told/asked me about.

    I understand that being knocked back down to her old grade must have been disappointing but she's being so rude, disrespectful and unprofessional I feel like I can't let it go on any longer. She's already asked to be moved to another job which I'm looking into, but I feel I need to have a conversation with her. As we work for the government, it's not as easy as just saying 'if it carries on you're out'. She's got a reputation for being difficult and two-faced, so I genuinely don't believe it's something I've done personally.

    Any tips?

    If it matters, i'm also a lot younger than her (by about 20 years).

    Koala

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    She's acting unprofessional. She obviously resents you. All you can do is stop breathing down her neck to assert your new authority, as that is also unprofessional. Stop lecturing her and start facilitating her transfer. Disliking an underling and using micromanaging to express that is as passive-aggressive as as her behavior. Rise above this and readjust your demeanor to that of leadership, not pettiness. It sounds like you are over compensating for lack of experience and being new on the job.
    Originally Posted by Koala2018
    told me she wouldn't learn anything as she's been managing longer than I and the other facilitators have, and went round the office in front of the teams slamming things. I've also since found out she's apparently running a 2 day course outside the office tomorrow and the day after, which she never told/asked me about. She's already asked to be moved to another job which I'm looking into, but I feel I need to have a conversation with her.

  3. #3
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    I've been in comparable situations in the past, and the only thing I can say is that reprimanding (no matter how justified) is likely to be counter-productive. So is telling her what to do in the sense of she "has to go because it wouldn't be fair if she missed it and all her peers had to go". Perhaps asking if she could go because she's had years worth of experience and would be a valued member of the seminar group would have helped, and saying that she'd be able to contribute more than any of the other delegates. It looks like she doesn't feel valued there, which would explain why she's running courses outside the office without discussing it with you.

    Acknowledging her feelings might help. "You've had masses more experience than me, and I don't think I'd have liked it if I were in your position. Is there anything you particularly want to do which you've lost, or any particular area of expertise you'd like to have responsibility for? I can see how unhappy you are and I'd like to do something about it."

    I once took over as a Head of Department in a school where I was not only the youngest person in the department, but the least experienced (at least in terms of years in the profession) AND there had been an internal candidate. This was going to require careful handling, and what I did was contact each of the other staff privately before I started, and asked them if there was anything that really p****d them off about their job - because chances are, we could do something about it.

    The key here is respect, respect for the other person, respect for their experience and giving them as much free rein as possible because then the whole department benefits.

    Being knocked back down to her old grade would have been more than disappointing; it would have been devastating. Especially if her age means that she's unlikely ever to get that promotion. The way she's dealing with it is extremely unhelpful, granted, but remember you're the one with the real power here - so use it compassionately.

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    Gold Member maew's Avatar
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    You do need to have a conversation with her.... she is being insubordinate, and if you don't have a conversation and address it the rest of your team will lose respect and trust for you as their manager. I absolutely believe in empathy and compassion and my first course of action is always to try to understand what the people on my team are thinking and feeling before I act.

    If empathy doesn't work and her behavior doesn't change however, at the end of the day you need to let her know that the behavior (use specific examples) is unacceptable and that she will be disciplined if it continues. Ask her what needs to happen in order for this behavior to change. Address her rudeness each time she behaves that way. Start keeping track of the things she says and does... write it all down... talk to HR about it, and get your own manager's advice on what to do.

    I had an employee last year try to undermine me in a few scenarios... it was my first year as their manager and I think he was trying to see how far he could push me... and push me he did... when empathy and understanding wasn't working, I chose to discipline him by holding back a chunk of his annual bonus. This was after doing all of the above, and is generally a last resort for me as it can be somewhat risky, but I strongly believe that if someone is behaving like an a$$ they don't deserve to be recognized through a pay increase. It did shock him and as he really does want to be part of the team at the end of the day, he chose to change his behavior.

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member itsallgrand's Avatar
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    How did you get the job? Be honest.

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    I think it's time that you start documenting her bad behavior and start writing her up to cover your a**. First give her an unofficial reprimand. Tell her you're a nice guy and you don't want to do this, but the next time she's out of line, you're going to have to write her up. Tell her that her behavior at the seminar was just over the top and you're sorry she didn't get your job, but her attitude has to change. And then start giving her official reprimands and start writing her up. I don't think her behavior can get much worse, and maybe you'll put the fear of God into her (or at least push her into an early retirement). A friend of my family runs a non-profit that receives government grants and that's what she does to mitigate any lawsuits. Where your employee is 20 years older than you, you might run into an age discrimination lawsuit, so you want to prove everything she does. And then either get her transferred or fire her.

  8. #7
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    The approach I'd use would be to negotiate an exchange. I would thank her for the professionalism and helpfulness she offered to me during my initiation there. In repayment for that, I'm offering her my best possible efforts to benefit her professionally and to help her move to any position she desires. This agreement is dependent upon the two of us maintaining our initial level of courtesy and professionalism. I'd ask her if she's up for that.

    Implying punishment isn't helpful, because it undermines the exchange I'm proposing. It's not okay for me to behave punitively if I expect courtesy to return from her.

    I'd see where this agreement goes. I'd ignore the passive/aggressive stuff, such as nail filing, because I'm focused on moving her out without sinking to her level of hostility. I'd avoid being too focused on her, except for 'catching' her at her best. I'd use those moments when I observe her doing GOOD things to inform her of any positive progress I learn about her application(s) for a job change.

  9. #8
    Silver Member Jellybean9's Avatar
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    We had an issue with this in another department.

    A new person started who was 15 older than the current staff. She felt entitled because she got the job as she is a friend on the in-house lawyer for our company.

    Anyway she was not taking instructions and sharing the work load. Expected all existing staff to pick up her slack.

    They had the "how do you like to be managed" talk and slipped in a few things they had noticed. Which eventually works.

    You employee is very envious of you and not being professional. Hopefully she moves on to another department and it doesn't have to go much further.

    Maybe have the "how do you like to be managed" talk and speak openly with her.

    Best of luck. Definitely take noted of dates and times if it gets nasty.

  10. #9
    Gold Member maew's Avatar
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    In my experience as a manager dealing with under-performers, ignoring the "bad" behavior doesn't make it go away. There are ways to address the behaviors that are respectful to the individual and respectful to the team.

    The team dynamic always gets thrown off when a new manager steps in, as everyone tries to figure out how to be heard and get what they need. It sounds like you didn't hear what this employee had to say about the training.... instead you just told her she had to suck it up and do it... which technically speaking isn't wrong but it sounds like your approach lacked empathy.

    Now, you have not only created a situation with this person where they don't trust you to have their back, but you now have a situation with the rest of the team where they will be watching to see how you handle this and what you do with this person.

    You don't need to threaten them or criticize them... and you can rebuild trust, starting by sharing how you felt about the situation. Let them know how their behavior is being perceived and what the impact is on them, on their career, and on their peers... that you notice she is frustrated and upset and you want to do what you can to make things work... and if she wants to move on that's okay, you will support it, however she needs to behave professionally so it doesn't impact her future in the organization. Let her know you are open to feedback on your own behaviors and her ideas on how to make things work as long as it's done in a respectful way. This will go a long way to allowing her to feel like you care and that she can trust you and be open with you.

  11. #10
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Make sure rumors and gossip don't have people saying that about you soon unless you utilize a more diplomatic leadership-based approach. Word will get around that she asked to be transferred as soon as you started. People will ask. Rumors and gossip go both ways. Worry about your reputation, not hers. This is not a college dorm.
    Originally Posted by Koala2018
    She's got a reputation for being difficult and two-faced

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