TThe boss from hell is a familiar creature of the workplace. Every office and every factory has one. You will find reams written about how to cope with this specimen. Even the most enlightened company keeps one in reserve; he is trotted out when things are bad. Otherwise you have to hire a seagull manager, who flies in, poops on everybody and then flies out.
The boss from hell has a counterpart — the employee from hell. This is not a fabrication; there are several books on the subject. Gini Graham Scott has written A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell: Handling Idiots, Whiners, Slackers, and Other Workplace Demons. Her range of “demons” includes the 3is (Incompetents, Idiots, and Imbeciles); the Bull in the Office China Shop (fe fi fo fum fight); the Part-time Performer (an excellent worker but in short spells of his choice); and the Problem Pusher (it could be drugs or merely supplying them).
Another book is Winning with the Employee from Hell. Asks the author Shaun Belding: “Who is the employee from hell. I suppose the simplest way to define him or her is any employee with whom you are having an ongoing challenge.” But it’s not so simple. Many employees who are perfectly reasonable can sprout horns if they get the wrong message. Hell hath no fury...
In most industry segments, bosses tend to be men. In India, women have established themselves in certain areas like media or advertising. There are many bosses who don't have the experience of dealing with women in the workplace. You treat them like one of the boys and there is every chance that they will take it amiss. Women who think they are being taken for granted or, worse still, exploited can easily convert into employees from hell.
It's perhaps a bigger problem the other way round. Men can make life miserable for women bosses. Unless your organisation supports you all the way, it is easy to fall victim to the macho type.
How do you handle an employee from hell? The simple answer is to introduce a boss from hell. That is likely to do the trick. But it is equally certain that you will end up with a company that doesn’t work.
Employees from hell, like schizophrenics, encourage others in the organisation with similar tendencies. So you can't even afford to ignore a problem. That's what people often do with a boss from hell. After he cows the workers into submission, you sack him and are left looking like a hero. The employee from hell — as, say, the union leader at Maruti — can be bought off. But the next man will cost even more.
So is there no solution? Some things can be tried. Danny Davids, an IT consultant who writes on technology-related issues, offers some pointers:
Check your behaviour — the original sin could be yours:
Maintain a professional attitude
Limit personal contact
Communicate only in writing
Find an alternative contact to get your work done
Seek professional counsel
According to Larry Johnson, co-author of Absolute Honesty: Building a Corporate Culture that Values Straight Talk and Rewards Integrity, employees from hell often find their behaviour tolerated. The toleration to them is a reward, reinforcing their behaviour. You have to approach such people in a systematic way.
Before dealing with an employee from hell, managers need to define one.
You can’t change people, but you can change bad behaviour — by withdrawing reinforcement for such behaviour.
Understand that most problem behaviour is motivated by an unmet need.
“If you can’t turn them around, you should turn them out,” says Johnson, If only it were as easy in India.
THE HATE LIST
The five habits that make managers
Being late for work: If an hour of your pay was the only thing lost when you showed up late, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But that’s not the only thing that gets lost with your tardiness. Being a few minutes late means your manager has to scramble to find coverage, which means disgruntled employees, which means customers get annoyed, which means sales go down.
Calling out all the time: Even worse than being late is not showing up at all. Then your manager has to call people at home and ask them to take your shift — or even cover for you themselves.
Having a bad attitude: If you’re going to have a crappy attitude once you get to work, maybe you’re better off staying home. Your scowls and eye-rolling create a bad perception of the company you work for, and that reflects poorly on your manager.
Getting distracted on the job: How do you spend your spare moments at work? Maybe it’s text messaging, Facebook, Internet surfing, or just a good old-fashioned chit chat with your co-workers. It’s not what you’re getting paid to do.
Taking the easy way out: You figure out a quicker and easier way to halfway execute a lame policy, and you think no one will notice. It doesn’t make any sense for a manager to employ someone they constantly have to check up on.