Changed attitude might help manage difficult employee

Knowing that your difficult  mechanic is a man in trouble does  not take away from your responsibilities to the other guys in the  shop. | Getty Images

Q: I have a real problem. The guy in our shop who is without doubt the best mechanic we have on staff is also the biggest pain in the butt.

This guy is totally self-absorbed. It is all about him. Whatever he has or does is the best, the biggest and the most impressive thing you have ever seen.

He is rude, inconsiderate and at times even bullying. He does nothing but cause stresses and tensions for the other guys working in the shop.

This is killing the morale in our place and that is what really hurts. I always thought that we had a great place to work. Not so now. This guy has pretty much taken that away.

The problem is this guy is really good at what he does. A number of my customers ask for him when they bring their machinery in for repairs. If I terminate this guy I stand to lose them, my most reliable customers. If I don’t do something, either let him go or in some way rein him in, I could lose some of my other workers.

We have already lost a mechanic and an apprentice.

I cannot blame him wholly for these guys leaving but for sure his attitude did not help.

So, I am stuck. I don’t know what to do? Do I let him go or do I watch the other guys walk out the door? Is there any chance that he might change? Maybe if he had some counselling? I have to do something. But I don’t know what. What do you think?

A: I have some thoughts for you. I hope that you will consider them.

The first thing that you have to do is to look deep inside of yourself. If you search your inner plains honestly enough, you will find that hidden away underneath all of the pledges of goodwill that you like to embellish are characteristics that are alarmingly similar to those characteristics you are citing in your difficult worker.

It is a difference, between you and him, of time and intensity. You have moments when you are competitive to just about anyone, when you are completely insensitive, when you are self-absorbed and when you are a little bossier than you need to be.

But whereas you shut these things off, your employee seems to indulge in them. And that is where he gets himself into trouble.

The point is that he is a fallible human just like the rest of us. When he is frothing at the mouth with his self-indulgence, he is also telling us that something inside of his personal psyche system is not working. Does anyone actually listen to this guy when he is into one of his rants? Or are you just tolerating it until he settles down?

Knowing that your difficult mechanic is a man in trouble does not take away from your responsibilities to the other guys in the shop. The chances of you getting this guy into counselling so that he can learn how to deal with other people more effectively are not good.

This leaves you with two options. The first is to simply let him go. He is not going to change and he could do serious damage not just to the morale level in your workplace but to the psyche of some of the other guys working there. Letting him go solves all of that.

The second option for you is to change the overall attitude toward him in your workshop. Right now everyone is reacting to the problem person. It is like he is in control in some way. That can change.

If instead of bouncing off the walls every time your problem guy does one of his numbers, all of you learned to ignore him and only pay attention when he is calm. Reaching a better understanding about some of the work he is doing might help make the situation more tolerable.

Of course, you cannot talk about your employee to your other staff behind his back. That could get you into trouble with labour relations regulators. But you can lead by example.

You can ignore those overreactions coming from his side of the bay. You just don’t let him get you going, and as you do this with some degree of success, the odds are great that your other staff will watch and listen and join you in embracing a more sensible response to what are otherwise disarming gestures.

He may or may not settle down but whatever he does, the other guys and you will be the better for your non-reactions to him. And here comes the return of your shop morale.

Good luck.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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