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12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee

12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Featured photo credit: Photo By Marc Lombardi via dropbox.com

More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement 7 Critical Statements Every Manager Should Avoid To Be More Respectable 12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee 8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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