I have one direct report who acts as though, when it comes to compensation, it's "never enough". After a six-month revealed they were looking for more (again), I was able to negotiate a modest second increase in the same year but they are really approaching the top of the pay scale now.

When we met to review the increase, body language was negative and the verbal reaction was that they were expecting more. Since then things have continued as normal however the general attitude of this person is as if they think they are doing the company a favor by showing up to work. This was also apparent before this last increase. I have never seen them happy with any increase in compensation.

Complicating matters, their work is of high quality and has steadily improved during their employment even with layering of new tasks. In this industry it is not difficult to find people and although replacing this individual would be challenging it's not an impossible task. Is this just a personality quirk I have to live with until they either figure out that their situation is not so bad or finally leave to see if the grass is greener elsewhere? (BTW this person has no personal situations that make money tight, in fact it seems quite the opposite)


timrutter's picture

Manager_0, I'd suggest you take the first steps. Attitude isn't really a behaviour, so try getting down to what he does and says and deal with it one at a time.

His work is good so don't be afraid to let him know that. Motivation is generally about far more than dollars

afmoffa's picture

Ask this employee, during a one-on-one, what he or she wants out of life. Let the question be that big, that open.

It doesn't surprise me that an employee who got a raise wants another raise. I feel the same way about cookies, and camera lenses, and books. My neighborhood is full of millionaires (not me), and most of them go to work every day to earn even more money. Interview a broad cross-section of a company: mail room, corner office, corporate boardroom, and I'll bet every employee would tell you "Man, if I had a 25% raise, I'd be all set."

But rather than offer an amount, ask an open-ended question. Maybe this person wants a 25% raise. Maybe this person really wants extra vacation days. Or flex-time. Or a sunny window. Maybe the employee would like more training, or a transfer to a different department.

Don't think of this as a negotiation. You're allowed to say no to anything he or she proposes. If he wants a pony, say no. If the request is reasonable, tell him you'll think it over... and then think it over. If this is a top performer, then think about saying yes.

ChrisH__'s picture

An interesting situation.

If the quality of work keeps improving, despite more and more work being added, it's hard to say that the employee is not motivated.....

I think the answer to this comes down to his impact on others.

If he is an individual contributor, and only you have to put up with the attitude, then maybe its worth putting up with it in exchange for good work. I guess you could explore other options to make him happier. If he really does just want more money, can you incentivise his work in any way, rather than just giving him a raise?

If he is working closely with others, this sort of attitude can very poisonous, and very hard to change.

Manager_0's picture

They are aware that both myself and the company value their work. We may have even over-sold this which could be a contributor to the problem!

When I say 'attitude' it is very difficult to for me to zero in on one area where I can adjust behavior. For example, when given a new project this person will sigh and say 'ok' in a defeated tone every time like they were just asked to clean a dirty latrine. I have never heard, "Ok, this will be a fun challenge" or "Ok, I'll get right on it". These are not mundane, routine projects as that is not the type of work we do, rather the opposite. Positions in this field are in high demand by employees.

Furthermore, the company has been more than flexible with outside obligations, time off and special considerations for this person. Our dept. is specialized so a transfer is out of the picture. I have inquired about specifics of what they are looking for and all I really get out of them is "more". Our offices are rather 'plush' in comparison to a standard US corporation so I doubt a window or better office is the ultimate answer.

Would something like, "When it appears you are not excited about your work, the negativity effects the morale of the entire team, even though your work is of high quality. What can I do to get you more engaged?" be appropriate? Perhaps I am dealing with a depression issue?

Manager_0's picture

Definitely a close knit team - the attitude is impactful on others.

430jan's picture

I really find AFMOFFA to have some good thoughts on asking the person what they want from life. You might be hesitant because you already feel you can't give any more, but if this individual is dissatisfied anyway what can it hurt?

I find your first statement "this person will sigh and say 'ok' in a defeated tone every time like they were just asked to clean a dirty latrine." More in line with a feedback statement than your suggestion "When it appears you are not excited about your work, the negativity effects the morale of the entire team, even though your work is of high quality. What can I do to get you more engaged?"

In the first statement you really are concisely reflecting a behavior. "When you sigh and say "ok" ... if that's what they just did then that is the behavior to state. After that statement you can say "Here's what happens. I get the impression you aren't excited about your work. Others see that too and it affects the team. What can you do differently going forward?" (It sounds like a humorless individual so I would leave out the part about the latrine!)

I would advise against asking the individual to give YOU a task i.e. "What can I do to get you more engaged?" They are probably already assigning you the task of their total happiness anyway.

Finally, their work is not high quality. If you expect, as a work duty, that staff will accept new job assignments without grumbling and tearing at the fabric of the team, then they certainly are NOT performing at top level in this key work duty.  It all counts.

It's a common issue, we're all learning right along with you. Good luck!


Manager_0's picture

430JAN - Thanks for your thoughtful statements, I think you nailed a better approach using the feedback model. You have all been very helpful!