Ken Lloyd: Unfriendly Employee Needs a Talk
Question: Several employees from other departments have been complaining about one of my employees. They say she is not responding to their email, and she is not particularly friendly. It was also said that she treats the cleaning crew very poorly. I have not directly observed these behaviors, and I'm wondering if I should discuss these comments with her or just treat them as hearsay.
Answer: These comments may indeed be hearsay, but when you have heard them said by a good number of employees, they should not be ignored. If one individual happened to mention that your employee is engaging in these questionable behaviors, perhaps it is an aberration. However, even in that limited instance, you would want to do some investigating.
In the current situation, there is a pattern of negative comments from several individuals regarding the behavior of this employee. The only other factor to consider prior to taking action is the credibility of the individuals who are voicing the complaints. If you have any reason to think that their comments are inflated, biased or malicious, you may want to think twice and further investigate the matter. And if these are credible employees, your next step is to increase your monitoring of this employee's behavior and, regardless of what you find, meet with her.
In such a meeting, you should focus on the specific behaviors that generated the negative comments, and let her know that several employees have mentioned these matters to you. Her reaction can run the gamut from total denial to quick acquiescence, and her reaction will help you determine your next action. Either way, she needs to understand that it is essential for her to address and correct these problematic behaviors, lest you will be forced to take other corrective action.
Question: Our company gave mouse pads with the company logo to everyone who has a computer. All five of my employees but one are now using these mouse pads, but one is still using a mouse pad that contains a photo of his family. I think that if the company went to the expense of getting these new mouse pads, and if the expectation is that all employees are supposed to use them, I am surprised that this employee has not made the change. When I said this to him, he said he prefers to keep his current mouse pad. Is it worth writing him up?
Answer: This really depends on the value system, culture, and performance expectations in your company. If there is major emphasis on conformity, obedience and compliance, then you probably should at least mention your concern again to him about this matter.
At the same time, it is rather difficult to conceive of a corporate environment in which an employee would be written up because he did not use a mouse pad emblazoned with the company's logo. After all, would employees also be written up if they used their own coffee cups or pens, instead of ones that bear the company logo?