November 7, 2008
Supervising behavior is up to the boss
Q: Does your advice change if the co-worker bugging you (and other people) is someone you supervise? One of my employees eavesdrops, then comments about it, passes gas (loudly) and has lots of other communication issues. Should I approach her or should her co-workers do so, and how do I talk to her?
A: No, my advice doesn't change. Yes, you should approach her because her peers cannot supervise her behavior, but you can.
People who do annoying things in the workplace are either unconscious about their behavior or have been getting away with it. Thus you have two tasks: 1) Make her aware of her behavior; and 2) make it clear her behavior has consequences.
Set up a private meeting with her. Start by letting her know that you know she wants to do a good job. List the behaviors you wrote me about without giving them negative labels. For instance, instead of "eavesdropping" say you have seen her appearing to listen to co-workers' conversations. You can also ask if the gas is a medical issue and if she needs referral to a physician.
Now list the behaviors you need to see. For instance, staying clear of co-workers having private conversations, going into the bathroom if she is having indigestion. Make sure each behavior is described concretely and not negatively. Avoid vague phrases like "I want you to start 'respecting' your co-workers."
If she argues or defends herself, repeat back what she says (it will often sound silly when it's repeated). Then tell her you want to give her a good review and avoid having letters of complaints in her file from you or her peers.
Emphasize that you believe she wasn't previously aware that these behaviors weren't working (this allows her to save face). Emphasize that she is in the driver's seat about whether she has compliments or complaints in her file. Emphasize that complaints about these behaviors will affect her next evaluation, her next raise, and her chances of promotion within the organization and you'll have her attention.
The last word(s)
Q: I have a phone call I really want to make on a job. I'm so nervous I can't dial the phone. Any way I can make it easier to get over being so anxious?
A: Yes, consider how you'll feel when they hire somebody else.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube
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