Q: My manager and I are concerned about one of my long-term employees who has a very negative attitude. "Jerry" has been here for more than 20 years, but has not been promoted because of his job performance. He sometimes lets his resentment about this come to the surface.
We recently got a new department head, and Jerry is having trouble adjusting to the change in management style. He doesn't seem to understand that his poor attitude is going to cause him problems with the new boss. What can we do to help him?
A: In my coaching practice, I frequently encounter otherwise-intelligent people who allow anger or resentment to kill their careers. The key to breaking this self-destructive pattern is to help them make the connection between their own behavior and the outcomes that matter to them.
The first step, therefore, is to find out what Jerry wants at this stage of his career. Is he concerned about job security? Are there particular projects he would like to undertake? Is he still hoping for a promotion? He needs to begin considering how his current actions may affect his future goals.
Once you understand Jerry's desires and interests, the next step is to help him recognize certain organizational realities. The unavoidable truth is that organizations are power hierarchies in which the people above you have the ability to make decisions that affect your life. If these higher-ups view you as unproductive or uncooperative, decisions will not be made in your favor.
Another inescapable fact is that a change in management inevitably signals the dawn of a new day. An executive with a fresh perspective is quite likely to modify existing policies, programs and practices. While this is understandably disconcerting for long-term employees, those who respond with negativity and resistance may find themselves on the next layoff list.
If you can help Jerry see that he is only hurting himself, you will do him a big favor. However, you and your boss also need to learn that actions have predictable consequences. By abdicating your management responsibilities and choosing to tolerate Jerry's unacceptable performance, you have also contributed to this problem.
Compliments about boss are sincere
Q: Do you think it would be okay to send a complimentary e-mail about my boss to her manager? Or would that just look as though I'm "sucking up"?
A: There's a big difference between sucking up and sincere appreciation. Suck-ups flatter their superiors in order to achieve some self-centered goal, like getting a raise or a better performance review. Genuinely appreciative people are simply expressing their true feelings.
Since most managers don't receive too many compliments, I'm sure your supervisor will be both surprised and pleased by your kind words. And considering all the bad bosses out there, it's nice to let upper management know about the good ones. So as long as you mean what you say, you should definitely send that e-mail.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."