Anne Loehr is a nationally recognized management coach and author of the award-winning book, A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best of Your Employees. I recently spoke with Loehr about her new book, Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee, a collaboration with workplace communications expert Jezra Kaye. She discussed some key takeaways from the book, including how to identify when an employee is worth holding on to and when it’s time to walk away.
How do you define an “unmanageable employee”?
We call an unmanageable employee (UE) an employee who exhibits constant, repeated, unproductive behavior. Everyone has a bad day, a bad week, sometimes even a bad month, depending on what’s going on in their life. But we’re talking about someone who’s constantly, repeatedly – on a fairly long-term basis – unproductive. This book is about helping managers uncover what they need to put UEs back on track.
The majority of organizational challenges are because the goals, the roles, and the processes are not clear. So people will say, for example, “Gosh, Mary’s driving me crazy, do something about Mary.” And I’ll go in, and I’ll do some work and then I’ll say, “Well, you know what? It’s not actually Mary – it’s never Mary – it’s Mary’s behavior that’s not working, for one. Two, she’s doing this because she actually thinks it’s her job, and you think that’s your job, and that’s the problem there.”
Do you find this happening a lot more now, with the economy and people taking on bigger workloads now, or is that always how it’s been?
I think that’s always how it’s been. You’re right – we have a lot of downsizing, a lot of reorganizing. Also what’s contributing to this is you’ve got a lot more virtual teams. So you’ve kind of lost that face-to-face feeling, which I’m not saying is a bad thing at all, but it’s just harder to have those kind of conversations to say, “What’s going on?” and it’s harder for a manager to spot a challenging, unmanageable employee until maybe it’s too late.
What makes managing the unmanageable different from other management books?