Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Deal with the Know-It-All Employee

Practically every manager has encountered this employee. An average worker has a self opinion of extreme competence. Yet, despite a decided lack of skills, this employee will make decisions independent of any managers or co-workers.

Different styles of management will handle this situation in a variety of manners. Some would say that this type of behaviour must not be condoned and would immediately dismiss the employee. However, a more experienced manager does not rush to fire employees. After all, one needs working, trained employees, rather than terminated ones.

It is imperative to thoroughly assess the situation. Has the employee's decision making caused damage to the company, either in a business sense or by demoralizing other employees? If so, your response may be somewhat harsher. If not, a subtler tone may be in order.

Speak to the employee. Find out what makes the person tick. Were they trying to cover up a lack of knowledge or simply being irresponsible? Do you think, after speaking to them, that change is possible or is this merely the person's personality? If change is possible, go for it! Sometimes, the mere fact that a person has been noticed can trigger a change, especially if the employee knows that they are being watched. Or, perhaps, a change of scenery may help. Move the employee to a different task. Another tactic to consider is the chain of command. Try allowing the employee to consult with you, rather than a supervisor. The feeling of importance may counter the feelings of resentment or punishment for having been caught doing something wrong.

Each case, undoubtedly, is different and there is no clear cut recipe for success. However, the bottom line is that you have to make a business decision and do what's best for the company, not for your feelings. It's not always easy to do what's right but management is all about making the tough decisions.

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  1. Very good piece !.

    Based on my experience, I would like to say, that the Manager need to clearly distinguish between 'lack of skill' OR 'lack of attitude'. First is quite easier to fix, and the second is hard. You are right, the person need to be on the radar for sometime. You need to observe him a little bit from outside of his job scope (during lunch breaks, tea breaks, other occasions) on his attitude. This will give a better idea if its 'skill' or 'attitude'. And, most importantly, the Manager need to be empathetic and genuinely concerned about the employee, and the impact of his actions/deed it has had on the organization and its peer and work out a way to improve him for his own good and the organization (show your true leadership skills).

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  2. Thank you, Shekar, we appreciate your feedback!

  3. The employee is smarter and more competent than the manager who employed him/her. This is the real problem which the manager cannot handle very easily.
    Only in North America I heard about somebody being "overqualified". In the rest of the world these people are a rare commodity, only here their talent is wasted, just to keep the current company's structure in place.
    Many managers tend to sacrifice their company for their own chair, position and salaries. The incompetence is greatly accepted, tolerated and even encouraged.
    That’s why this economy is going down, since Europeans and Asians ones are flourishing.
    A major restructuring in existing principles have to be made, until is not too late. Maybe it is too late.

  4. Well said! Though I find it hard to believe that this type of corruption exists only in North America, as much as it does here :).


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