What’s the Story With the “Problem” Employee?

There’s that one ‘difficult’ employee in every workplace. Talent managers must tread lightly on how they deal with each individual issue – especially now. A new study found that approximately one in five workers have a personality disorder that negatively impacts their career and the workplace. An article from Human Resource Executive Online author Peter Cappelli  shines some light on how to manage your workforce’s ‘difficult’ employee.

It seems as though there is always one employee who is at the center of most of the workplace’s problems. Is it really that one person who’s the problem? A new study suggest that yes, it probably IS that one person.

The study, “Does Having a Dysfunctional Personality Hurt Your Career”, is based on survey data from the U.S. Census and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Researchers found that 18 percent of adult men and 16 percent of adult women have personality disorders. These deviations in behavior constitute some more serious problems in the workplace.

Deviations from expectations means that they interpret memos in distorting ways, seeing conspiracies that don’t exist; they interpret innocent comments as personal slights; and they refuse to accept simple changes in procedures.

Geographically speaking, there is a higher rate of incidence for personality disorders in the South than there is in the Northeast – not to mention higher incidence rates for those who are educated versus those who are not. People with personality disorders  are three times more likely to have problems with their bosses or other employees.

One might imagine that individuals who are anti-social – willing to lie, cheat, and violate social norms – would have the most problems. But it turns out that having obsessive-compulsive behavior is associated with the most negative workplace outcomes.

What does a talent manager do with this information? Proper supervision is helpful. Personality disorders, once diagnosed, are covered by the American with Disabilities Act and many disorders are easily treated! This just means that talent managers are going to have to use a different plan of action.

Maybe it means making new and different use of employee-assistance programs to help these individuals identify their problems and seek treatment. Maybe it means helping to redesign their tasks and jobs to find those that truly “fit” what they are capable of doing.

No matter the problem, employees must still be held accountable for interacting with others and performing appropriately within your workforce. But maybe this will help you see how your organization could be improved. To read more about how to manage your organization’s ‘problem’ employee, click here to read the full article.

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