Q: I supervise a data clerk who is rude and uncooperative. She acts independently, as if I don't exist, and snaps at me whenever I tell her something. My manager and I have discussed this, but have not been able to come up with a solution. There is just no way to communicate with her. Any suggestions?
A: Yes, I have a suggestion, but first I have a question: Exactly who is the boss here? You and your wimpy manager have apparently decided to abdicate your positions and put this insolent clerk in charge.
Any employee who fails to behave professionally must be clearly told what is expected, then held to those expectations. Competent managers do not negotiate bad behavior, so if your ill-mannered data clerk refuses to change, then you simply need to let her go.
Don't pick up slack of lazy co-worker
Q: I work the morning shift as a waitress in a small, privately owned restaurant. We have a new cook, "Chuck," who works in the afternoon. When I'm trying to leave at the end of my shift, Chuck starts telling me to make egg salad or bring him cheese from the cooler. I usually stay late to help, even though I think that preparing food is his responsibility.
Chuck also tells me to clean the meat slicer, which is clearly part of his job. A slicer should be taken apart and cleaned thoroughly to remove bacteria. If I refuse, Chuck will just wipe it off with a rag, so I do it to keep people from getting sick.
Chuck always arrives early, but he sits around playing video games instead of preparing for his shift. When another waitress and I work on the night shift with him, he never helps us clean up after closing. He just plays his video game and waits for us to give him a ride home.
The owner is not usually around to see these problems, although he did get mad at Chuck when I told him about the meat slicer. How should I handle this?
A: Chuck may be a parasite, but right now you are your own worst enemy. As long as you continue doing his work, Chuck will happily continue playing video games. After all, why would he want to change? This is working well for him.
Instead of initiating a pointless confrontation with Chuck, you and the other waitress should meet with the owner to clarify job responsibilities. Present a suggested division of labor for the waitress and cook positions, then ask for his opinion.
For example: "Since Chuck became the cook, we've noticed some confusion about who is supposed to do what. We've taken the liberty of drafting a description of our duties, and we wanted to see if you agree." In the interest of public health, you might also reiterate your concerns about the slicer.
Once the owner has approved the job descriptions, ask him to review them with everyone involved. After that, you must immediately stop doing work that belongs to Chuck. And to be on the safe side, you might also avoid eating any sandwiches that contain meat.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.