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How to handle the 4 most common types of “disconnected” staffers

Why don’t those staffers perform the way the manager wants them to perform? To a great extent it’s because there’s no connection between the staffer and the job.

For an employee to do well, there have to be three connectors. They are:

  • fit (or intellectual connection)
  • passion (or emotional connection); and
  • ownership (a sense of having enough importance to think and act like an owner of the business).

Here are four types of disconnected staffers and what to do with them – or at least how not to hire those people the next time around. With each one of the action steps are assess, and realign or divest. This means evaluate the seriousness of the behavior and either get that person in line or tell that person goodbye.

1 Staffer Negative

First is the negative staffer, or the loud complainer, and for that person there are two solutions.

One is to show Staffer Negative that the office has to be unified to succeed. A good approach: “You have things that add great value to our office. I need what you do, but I need it in a positive way. Let me show you some of the behaviors we are seeing and how they are bringing us down.” Give the example: “I heard you yelling at So-and-So.” Then show how it affects the bottom line: “When you yell at another staffer, the impact is that the other staff get upset to the point that they don’t get the bills out on time.” And then the clincher – how the yelling is going to affect that person’s pay. That perks up anybody’s attention. That doesn’t criticize the staffer. It simply says the behavior is affecting and hurting the entire office.

The other solution is to turn the negative energy that harms the office into positive energy that benefits it. Do that by expanding Staffer Negative’s responsibilities – to whatever area that person is complaining about. If possible, give the staffer full responsibility for it. For example, give a griping billing clerk the job of figuring out five ways to improve the data collection process. People don’t understand what it’s like to manage the things they complain about. Making them responsible for those things lets them find out that it’s not so easy. Suddenly Staffer Negative is accountable, visible, and in charge of solving the problem. Who has room to complain now? But don’t stop there. Set a date to meet and evaluate the progress. One of the main reasons negative employees are negative is that they are not getting the attention they are looking for. They need a regular dialogue with the manager. With the new responsibility, that staffer now has an intellectual connection with the job, a passion for getting it done, and a sense of ownership because part of the job is figuring out how to do it.

2 Staffer Out-to-Lunch

Next is the staffer who is unenthusiastic about the job to the point of being disconnected. That person just wanders through the day. The problem there is usually that the individual is the wrong person for the job. The talents don’t match the job and vice versa. The staffer gets discouraged and mentally checks out.

When that’s the case, assess the staffer’s abilities and interests and see if the job and the abilities match. Do that with a talent assessment. But that’s best done at the hiring stage because it’s not always possible to match an existing staffer to an existing job. Consider the example of someone who is given a position at the front desk but whose interests lie in backroom clerical work. When a patient comes in, all that person is going to do is rush through the encounter and get back as fast as possible to some detailed job. There’s never going to be enough good interaction with the patient. That person will never connect with that job. Say goodbye.

3 Staffer Minimalist

Then there’s the minimalist. That’s the person who does the bare bones and nothing more. Again, it’s a matter of connection. Staffer Minimalist has an intellectual connection with the work but no emotional connection. In other words, the staffer knows how to do the job but isn’t passionate about doing it.

There are two possible solutions.

One is job sculpting, or customizing the job to the things that person loves to do. Find out what the staffer’s talents are and put them to good use doing something that will benefit the office. Then the job becomes engaging and the staffer does more and better work.

For example, suppose the office needs an internal newsletter and suppose Staffer Minimalist who works in the billing department has a secret love of writing. Present the challenge: “I have something that will get you excited. I would like for you to be our newsletter editor.” All of a sudden that biller who has been blandly showing up every day has something to be passionate about, something to look forward to. Part of management is knowing what each staffer’s hot buttons are and pairing the person to the office’s needs. Besides encouraging job connections, it’s essential to getting the work done well. No matter how glamorous the job of office newsletter editor may be, give it to somebody who doesn’t like to write, and that person will hate it. To find out what the hot buttons are, ask staff outright, “What are your talents? What are your interests?” There’s a pretty good chance the manager can match each person to an interesting and necessary task.

The second solution is to set performance expectations. Often people do the minimum because they don’t know what’s expected of them. Explain what the office wants: “Here’s what it looks like when you do a really good job.” But don’t tell that staffer how to get there. Let the staffer do that. People get excited about that. They start thinking of ways to meet the expectations.

4 Staffer Suck-up

Finally, there’s the pleaser, the suck-up, the obsequious and flattery-filled staffer. The goal here is to make that staffer understand what’s expected and take responsibility for the performance instead of trying to impress the manager. Suck-up people are usually that way because they need additional responsibilities in their areas of talent and the recognition that goes along with them. So the solution is to swamp them with responsibilities and then meet to review the progress. People who are always trying to please are looking for a reaction from the manager that they are not getting. They feel the manager doesn’t spend enough time with them. Hand over the extra work – that gets them out of the manager’s hair. Then meet regularly to evaluate the work – that gives them the attention they crave. The outcome is that they become self reliant and don’t need all the constant attention.

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