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12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee

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Whether you are manager or an individual contributor, you know who the High Maintenance (HM) employees are in the organization. Yet they still exist, and in many organizations, they seem to multiply. These highly skilled individuals know how to work the system and are difficult to remove from the organization. The individual’s behavior or performance is just on the cusp of being unacceptable, or he or she has a skill that carries an offsetting value. You will not be favored by your colleagues if you appear to be too demanding or difficult. You may not have enough self-awareness to realize that you may be one of these high-maintenance employees.

Here are some telltale signs that you, or your colleagues, are high-maintenance employees. Start by calculating your own HM index by asking, “Compared with others in my organization I: 1= never do this, 2= sometimes do this, 3= usually do this, 4= often do this, 5= always do this”.

1. Complain

You spend more time grumbling than contributing. Everything is wrong according to you, and you do little to find solutions. If it does not favor you, then you complain endlessly about it. You either are the problem or are extra fuel for the fire to keep the problem burning. Tip: Keep negativity to a minimum. If you have to vent, do so outside the office.

2. Shirk Ownership  

The problems always seem to be others’ problems and not yours. You don’t believe that you can do anything wrong, and even when a problem arises in the office, you don’t want to take part in resolving it. You leave the rest of your colleagues or management to handle it and work it out. Tip: Look for one problem to solve as your opportunity to shine by owning a solution.

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3. You are Avoided  

People make it a point to avoid you or even exclude you from events or discussions. Of course, nobody wants to be around someone who is clueless, selfish and/or difficult. Hence, you will find yourself out of the loop. Tip: Look for these signs to help you address your self-evaluation of the trouble you might be in or heading toward.

4. Involve Human Resources

HR cringes when your name is mentioned. The truth is that the burden of the problems you cause are starting to outweigh your value. The time you suck up from your management and/or the HR department for insignificant issues is restricting them from doing their job. Sometimes there may be even regret ever hiring you. Tip: Try everything possible to work out problems at the lowest level possible without escalation.

5. Job Hunt

You spend more time looking for another job than doing your own job. This is not surprising as you consider that nothing is good enough where you currently are. You feel that another job could be what you need. The problem is that if you are not searching on company time, then you are thinking about it and reducing your focus on what you are being paid to do. Tip: Look closer at the opportunities you have, or can create, within your workplace to keep your job interesting.

6. Avoid Accountability

You may take responsibility to do the work, but taking ownership of the results is only accepted when it is successful. Tip: When you are clearly wrong or unsuccessful, accept that it’s your fault, provide a solution, and fix it or apologize.

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7. Limit Growth

You refuse to grow and learn to raise your level of contribution. Organizations look for employees that continually add value and have potential. Tip: Show that you are future-focused, and you are investing to build your personal value.

8. Minimize Contribution

You believe providing support to other’s success is a burden. You are self-centered and often are looking for the easy way out. Tip: Realize that you gain power and support when you contribute to the successes of others, if not immediately, then in the long run.

9. Avoid Being a Team Player

You yearn for individual praise and appreciation over the team recognition. Somehow, you feel threatened if you are not singled out for the work that you have done. Tip: Follow President Harry Truman’s practice and belief, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

10. Create Problems

You don’t leave your personal life and issues outside of the office. It could be the reason why your work performance is suffering and you lack focus. You find yourself playing more of the blame game than the solution game. Tip: Start with the assumption that you are the problem and you need to fix the issues outside of work, so that you can perform inside of work.

11. Deliver Inferior Work

Your work is always below par compared to others. You get by with the bare minimum and deliver just enough to give hope to your boss that there will be more, but it never comes. Tip: Get clear expectations for your work and either deliver it well, or negotiate with your boss for what is possible before the deadline that meets the expected quality.

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12. Make Mistakes

Your boss is forced to do damage control with others due to your deficiencies. You keep making mistakes that could hurt the organization simply because you refuse to learn and grow or accept accountability. Hoping it will get better in the future or just not caring are not good strategies for success. Tip: Accept constructive criticism and demonstrate small incremental improvements to show your ability to change.

How did you score on the HM index? A maximum score is 60 points, and a minimum score is 12 points. Self-awareness is the first step to removing yourself from the HM list. This approach makes life better for you, your managers, and your co-workers. You can start by working on one or more of the elements that have the highest scores for the 12 signs.

Don’t feel overwhelmed; the first part of any journey starts with a single step. Also, don’t feel alone; recruit others to help and be part of your success. The work they do with you may even help raise their own self-awareness of changes they can implement for themselves. If you know a HM employee, ask them to complete this self-assessment and confidentially share your own observations with them as well. Collectively we can all improve ourselves and grow the organization. You can do this; all of your colleagues’ work lives can be improved by your effort.

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Featured photo credit: Photo By Marc Lombardivia dropbox.com

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