If I were to come to work for you, and you told me to show up at 8:00 a.m., I would show up at 8:05 a.m. Just to see what you would do. Just to see if you have any integrity at all. Because, I am a troublemaking, fence-testing, pain-in-the-butt employee.
This may be why I currently own my own business. However, I don’t have to be the queen of everything. I will align myself with someone else’s game if it is a game worth playing. Otherwise, I will play my own game. Not surprisingly, I have been fired a few times. And I have quit lots of other jobs. On a few bright occasions, I became a superstar employee.
What about you? Is there a troublemaker at your company? Maybe you’ve already gotten rid of them. That may be the best move for you, and for them. However, I like fence-testers. I relate! And you may be able to channel their energy into a mutually beneficial action. Energy is everything! It’s easier to harness lightning than to try and manufacture it.
Here are 5 Tips for Transforming a Troublemaker Employee into a Superstar
It starts from the moment you meet a prospective employee. A difficult employee usually chooses bad behavior after he or she has given up on you. You might avoid trouble if you …
- Are Selective. As a plumber I know, a Superstar employee for the company he works for, was filling his truck with fuel. A competitor’s truck pulled into the gas station, the driver hopped out and ran over to him. “Man, come work for us. We are desperate. I will pay you $2 more per hour than you are making now.” Mr. Superstar said, “No thanks.” When I asked him about it, he said, “That guy didn’t know the first thing about me. Why would I want to work for a company who would take anybody?”
- Draw the Line. When I started a new job, I would corner an employee and ask, “What does the manager go to the wall about? What will get me fired?” Note, I wouldn’t ask the manager. My experience with managers was that they would say one thing and enforce rules in mysterious ways. Instead, make it clear what your non-negotiable standards are. Start with “Clean, sober, on-time and dressed right.” These are easy to uphold and not subject to opinion. But you choose. What’s important to you? Not everything is a have to. Make it clear from the start what will NOT fly and what is optional.
- Play a Big Game. It’s not what your company does. It’s why. It’s how you do it. It’s possible to elevate ordinary, mundane tasks – like plumbing, like selling t-shirts, like cleaning vent hoods – into a meaningful movement. One of my greatest bosses and mentors was a woman named Jackie, who owned and operated a coffee shop. I worked for her at the height of my trouble times. Jackie would have none of it. She told me, “We do things the right way, we keep the place spit-spot clean and we serve customers with love.” I wanted to make her proud of me because it meant something.
- Work Elbow to Elbow for the First Two Weeks. If you spend time with team members a few wonderful things happen. One, you get to know each other. Some people are into monster trucks, others are into classical music. Everyone has a story. Time together builds friendship and respect. You can determine if the new hire is capable of doing the work that is required. Note that the better your training program, the lower the skill level required. More importantly, you want to learn if they are willing to do what you want done. Can you engage this person in your vision? Now’s the time to share your philosophy. Magic happens when you get a fence-tester to say, “I’ll play.” They may not say it out loud, by the way. You will know if they don’t test you by crossing the line. (See above.) It’s OK to fire someone. You’ll know if you are good for each other when you spend quality time elbow to elbow. What isn’t OK is to give up on them, complain about them, and continue to pay them.
- Load ‘em Up. Boredom breeds trouble. Keep team members busy. Ask, “How can we solve this problem? What would you do if you were me?” When they respond with great ideas, green-light them. Put a bounty on a tough project completed. Play honorable games and offer sales bonuses for “above and beyond” performance. A “fizzy” and focused team member can use energy to make things better, not cause headaches for you.
Troublemakers. Takes one to love one.
I wonder … were you a fence-tester? Is that why you started your own business? I have lots more to share on this hot topic. Check out my upcoming online webinar How to Recruit, Hire and Retain Great Employees. Or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and @ellenrohr.