That Know-it-all Jerk At Work

Katie Young
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Wednesday - July 04, 2007

JoAnn Kaita
JoAnn Kaita

When Elaine hired Marvin to fill an entry-level position at her company, she thought she was getting the perfect fit. Marvin seemed intelligent, well-spoken, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

At first, everything seemed fine. Marvin was friendly and eager to learn the ropes. A couple of weeks after he started, however, Marvin began to exhibit some undesirable characteristics.

He insisted that his way was the “correct” way to do everything, bypassing procedures and policies that had been set up long before his arrival. He failed to listen to direction on many occasions, again thinking that his way was better anyway.

“He’s inconsistent!” one coworker complained.

“And he keeps arguing with me about how things should be done,” another said to Elaine.

As the manager, they were looking to Elaine to remedy the situation.

“Let’s just give him some time,” Elaine said, hoping that Marvin just needed time to adjust to his new environment.

But weeks went by and Marvin didn’t get better - he got worse. His co-workers grew increasingly frustrated with his inability to take direction from them or to listen to what needed to get done.

Finally, Elaine agreed that she should say something to Marvin, so she called him into her office. But Elaine was very kind and felt badly about chastising Marvin. So instead, she asked him what his concerns were about his new job. She listened intently and then, as an afterthought, asked Marvin to be conscientious about the policies of their office.

Marvin answered, “Sure! Alrighty, then!”

Elaine and her other employees soon realized that this was Marvin’s answer to everything. He wasn’t really listening to the request being spoken, he just said, “Sure! Alrighty then!” to everything.

The months passed and nothing changed. Marvin’s inability to be a team player affected not only his work, but the mental well being of his fellow co-workers as well. Everyone at the office was feeling more stressed, more agitated.

Sometimes it can be challenging to find the right employee to fit your organization’s culture. The brief interviewing period is sometimes not enough to get an accurate indication of how good a fit a person really is.

“You can do your best but there are no guarantees,” explains JoAnn R.M. Kaita, director of human resources for ProService Hawaii.

ProService Hawaii is the state’s leader in outsourced employee administration. The company provides a comprehensive suite of employee administrative functions including payroll, human resource services, health benefits, workers’ compensation and 401(k) management, as well as risk management and regulatory compliance, for some 700 local businesses representing 7,000 employees statewide.

Kaita advises that if an employee is not living up to your expectations, it is imperative that the issue be addressed immediately.

“Time is everything,” says Kaita. “When issues come up and managers or supervisors wait to address it, the problem only perpetuates. In addition, the employee might wonder why an issue is only being brought up later instead of in the beginning.

“You want to give the employee all your expectations up front so there is no confusion.”

Kaita says that there are several ways to handle problems with employees including verbally addressing the conflict and, if it is not taken care of, then you can give a written warning that asks that behavior be modified and sustained within a certain time frame or disciplinary action will be taken.

Most important, she says, is to be clear about your expectations and be consistent.

Some managers might find it difficult to confront an employee in this type of situation because they don’t want to rock the boat or hurt the employee’s feelings. This is when human resource professionals can help by stepping in and working with the employee to resolve these issues.

Sometimes, says Kaita, you can tell an employee over and over again to correct behavior, but the employee might not get it. This is when you know this person is not a good fit for your organization and you need to part ways.

As for how you can avoid this dilemma in the first place, Kaita suggests putting together a team of interviewers who each will be able to offer a different point of view about perspective employees. Also, develop assessment tests to evaluate a person’s abilities and


“Human resources professionals can help organizations with these assessments,” says Kaita. “Also, make sure to ask the relevant questions. Be honest and open about the position and make sure that the candidate understands so they can decide it’s a good fit for them as well.”

Most of us spend the majority of our week at the office. No one needs the added stress of problems created by an employee who is the wrong fit for the organization. It’s important to stay on top of employee issues so you keep the office a happy, healthy place to be.

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