I hired a manager that is based remotely.  She poses strong personality in driving results, which I was happy with.  However, she is quite emotional and does not handle stress well.  (raised her voice or cries when things got tough)  I have given her feedback and praised whenever she managed well.  I feel there is an improvement on her emotional stability as she feels accomplished an thus more motivated. I also used more video conference call so I could see her facial expression and interact better.  

Things went down right after we announced a new team structure that she would report to a new Sr. manager who then report to me.  She felt demoted (which I get but she is far from being promoted to the senior role).  Since then her communication to me was hostile, sarcastic, abrupt, let along the lack of ownership. I've tried to reach out to HR on what our options are at the moment but no response yet (previously I was asked to put her in some managed performance plan - which we feel may be a waste of time as she is now close to quit).  What should I do to confront her attitude or to handle this employee while I quickly fill the senior role so I can let her go?   Thank you very much!

leonbuker's picture

Hi Peaceyo, how is it all unfolding?

Managing emotional employees is difficult enough, without having to do it remotely as well. My past experience has been to listen to what the employee has to say, using reflective listening techniques. I want to make them feel heard, without agreeing with their assertions. I’ve found that to be the hard part, because usually they are looking for sympathy and just want me to agree with how terribly they have been treated. Unfortunately this usually takes a long time, as they often have a lot to say.

If it has gotten to the stage where the employee has clammed up, and doesn’t really want to speak with you at all, then it can be really frustrating. Most people’s instinct at this point is to reduce communication, but actually try the reverse and increase the amount of communication. It doesn't have to be work related, but you should share some of your own stuff. Basically, you are opening up more of yourself to that person and that sometimes works in getting the other person to start to open up to you too. It’s also important it feels like a two way street, otherwise they will think they are being interrogated. How much do you know about their non-work life?

It’s easier if they are in the same office, as you can buy them a coffee or a chocolate bar next time you get one for yourself. Sometimes in not wanting to single someone out, I ended up buying for the whole team. It’s not as effective, but if a relationship is already strained, it seems less out of the ordinary.

Emotional types are often just looking to be valued or acknowledged as people, and so positive feedback about work sometimes isn’t exactly what they want. I sometimes think of them as not being as mature, and hence they need more support. I try not to think of them as children though, because then I risk being condescending.

These are just my random thoughts, and I hope they help.



mrreliable's picture

To be honest, I think you're taking the wrong approach. You talk about her being "quite emotional" and comment on her "emotional stability." I get that those questions will come to mind with someone who is acting that way, but assuming you're not a psychologist by trade you really have no business trying to diagnose and treat her emotional issues.

Deal with the behaviors. "Hostile, sarcastic, abrupt." Those can still be subjective, but can be defined better than causes and solutions for emotional turmoil.

I'd recommend continuing to obtain support from HR. I'm assuming the managed improvement plan is the same as what we call a performance improvement plan, which sounds like exactly the right thing in this case. Talk to HR and get some information about it. These can be powerful tools to save an employee who is teetering on the edge of the cliff. It's a written plan that lays out specific behaviors that need to change and notifies the employee of what actions will be taken if they fail to meet the stated requirements (usually termination). It's a last resort, but it's often the only solution for an employee who is one step away from either quitting or being fired. It makes it very clear what the issues are and what needs to be done to fix things. You discuss the plan with the employee, and both of you sign it.

It sounds like she's ready to quit and you're ready to fire her. If you keep going down the road of trying to fix her emotional state, it's going to do nothing but make the ending process that much more painful for both of you.

NLewis's picture

Both the previous posts are well-said.  I'd only add that you need to be careful of your own emotional involvement.  If they're being sarcastic or disrespectful then they are likely looking to goad you into an unprofessional response.  Be better than that.  Stick to the facts, provide feedback, and document.  You can't make them be professional but you can hold a mirror up to their behavior.  "Can I give you some feedback?  When you use that tone with me it makes you come across as disrespectful.  Is that what you intended?"  If they answer yes document it.  Either way a simple "Can you do better with that in the future?" closes the conversation.  Calling them on their behavior without becoming emotionally involved yourself re-enforces your position.  Ultimately you're the boss. They have a job to do.  If they're a professional, they'll do it to the best of their ability without making it personal - and so will you.