So, how do we define a “problem-child” employee? The answer: it depends. Yes, I know I sound like an attorney with the “it depends” response. However, describing a problematic employee will vary greatly from one organization to the next. If you ask the average manager, they’ll probably offer an individual’s name, such as, “Oh, yeah…that would be Ernie…” Or, “Oh, yeah… that would be Brianna…” An image of an employee usually comes to mind when a manager thinks of “problem child.” However, the issue is usually around behavioral problems: not getting along with coworkers, failing to lead and manage employees effectively if in a supervisory role, or parts of the job are falling through the cracks with performance slumping.
So, how do we deal with this? The first step is in diagnosing the actual problem. And, that means getting down to the root causes. Could it be this person was just a bad hire in the first place? In my experience, a lot of organizations unknowingly bring on a problematic employee when the hiring process is too focused on technical skills and not enough on behavioral skills. Additionally, not screening applicants for their functional fit with the position being sought or the organization’s mission and culture.
People can talk a good game in an interview. As an example, if a hotel is hiring a Food & Beverage Director, the GM may be dazzled by an applicant’s ability to “speak the speak” of food and beverage jargon. If this individual can talk about liquor costs, banquet set ups, and all the lingo used in the hospitality industry…the GM may think, well, this applicant MUST be good, right? Not exactly.
With too much emphasis on screening applicants’ technical skills, often the nuances of a particular applicant’s behavior is overlooked. If a Food & Beverage Director is responsible for leading a staff of 130 people, working in a fast-paced, stressful environment–and has to manage and develop a team of five supervisors–how will you know if this individual can demonstrate the right leadership and managerial behavior to succeed? And, how do you know if this individual’s background will be a functional fit with your organizational culture? What I mean by functional fit is this: what if the applicant came from a very large, global hospitality company–but is applying for an F&B Director job with a small, exclusive country club? The functional fit is going to be a disaster–because the applicant’s background just isn’t a fit. Large global–to small, privately held exclusive club. Huge staff with lots of resources–down to limited staffing and constant focus on cost constraints. Hospitality guests who may visit the hotel a few times vs. “club members” who will dine in the restaurant–every day. And, who pay an exorbitant fee to be pampered and catered to. Very, very different functional background.
What I’m getting at here is that organizations can minimize the amount of bad apples they hire–if the hiring processes were improved to gain more insight into an applicant’s behavioral and functional expertise. A way to do that is in improving the current performance management process to identify the critical behavioral competencies in each role. Then, aligning those competencies with the hiring process. Often, there is a huge disconnect here…If the hiring managers used a good interview guide–to screen applicants the same way, using the same questions–the process would be an “apples-to-apples” process. Comparing and contrasting applicants using the same criteria. Also, if the screening questions used more case study/scenario type questions, organizations would gain better insight into an individual’s capabilities. Through watching their reactions to certain questions and how they would more than likely respond if faced with particular scenarios, hiring managers can better determine if the applicant will be a fit.
Until next time…