So your employee is a victim of the world? She's caught up in her own drama, and she brings it into the office each day. She expects co-workers to play along, offering sympathy and a little slack. What do you do? This one is tricky, as sometimes this mindset is ingrained in an employee who has gotten away with the behavior for too long. But there are some approaches you can take to keep this toxic lady from affecting everyone's productivity.
Confront the employee directly and let her know that you are sensing a pattern developing with her behavior. Be gentle yet firm, and cite specifics when you discuss the issue with her. For example, instead of saying, "You always complain about drama at work," say something like, "I've noticed over the past month that you've had several incidents and situations that have impacted your work." Give specific examples, and allow the employee a chance to explain. Sometimes leading your employee to her own realization is better than telling her how it is.
Encourage her to get organized. Most people don't really have "bad luck." Disorganization and lack of focus is often the culprit for continuing incidents. Gently suggest some positive actions your employee can take to organize her life. Suggest a better time management system if she is constantly running late for work, the house is falling apart, or she has drama with family members. Whatever the recurring theme, it is likely to be mitigated by a bit of organization.
Suggest that she visit a counselor. This is a positive move on your part because it shows that you are taking her situation seriously, but it also conveys that you, nor your colleagues, are the ones that should have to field these grievances or complaints.
Affirm positive behaviors. Show all employees that hard workers and positive go-getters are prized, and underdogs are not revered in your workplace environment. The employee who plays the victim feels that doing so will help her climb, or maintain her role. Demonstrate that this isn't the case by rewarding those who work hard with positive attitudes on a regular basis.
- You may find you need to take stronger action in this situation if it does not resolve itself. Jim Warner, co-author of The Drama-Free Office, is cited in the article "5 Ways to Create a Drama-Free Workplace" by the National Federation of Independent Business. He suggests that it might be worth letting an employee go if she interferes with the energy and productivity of your team. Warner and his co-author cite four different problematic personality types for employees, including caretakers, cynics, complainers and controllers. An employee who feels like a victim can become any of these, but especially complainer and controller. She may feel she has to complain constantly or demand the attention of her colleagues regularly to keep the story going.
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