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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

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Published on August 14, 2018

17 Versatile Work Skills Employers Want to See in Potential Employees

17 Versatile Work Skills Employers Want to See in Potential Employees

When we look at a job advertisement, it can seem as though employers want an exhaustive list of experience and technical skills from their new hire.

They list desirable qualities such as ‘initiative’, ‘team player’ and ‘strong work ethic’. Those words can mean a variety of things to different people and it can be quite hard for employers to illustrate fully the combination of technical and soft skills they want their potential employees to have.

What they often want is a mix of versatile skills that make it easy for them (and you) to adapt to the changing needs and demands which occur in businesses today.

After all, adaptability and innovation are what make businesses thrive.

In today’s ever-changing environment, versatility is a mandatory attitude every working person needs to have. With the following seventeen work skills, you will not only make your employer extremely happy and confident that hiring you was their best decision, you will experience greater personal satisfaction and results.

1. Know what you want but more so why you want it.

Employers need to sense you have a solid idea as to why you are a fit for their role and their organization. They need to sense you have your own sense of purpose.

However, it can be a double-edged sword to say you know exactly what you want to achieve and gain if you are successful in your application and interview.

Some employers can perceive this as arrogance; your needs first, theirs second. What employers are really looking for is your internal sense of knowing that potential to join their organization is a winning combination for both of you.

2. Diplomacy and conflict resolution skills save money, lost productivity and efficiency.

Can you agree to disagree? Can you evaluate without passing judgment or at least be self-aware of your own biases? Can you put these aside to find solutions for the betterment of the team?

Employers look for versatility in soft work skills that bring peace, lower stress and contribute to creating harmony. If you have ways with words to help heated arguments reduce to a simmer so there is space for compromises, negotiations and reasoning to take place your employers’ respect for you will jump at least tenfold.

Peace-making skills are invaluable in changing workplace culture, particularly toxic ones. Any good employer knows a strong in-house negotiator will save them thousands of dollars in engaging an external mediator.

3. Know how to set and reframe your own goals.

Much research has documented that when employees have a clear purpose, mission and goals, they are more likely to be highly productive. They are less likely to flounder around in many directions nor be busy and not produce results that matter.

Employers know well that employees who develop their own goals and can align these with those of the company are more self-driven, self-sufficient and take greater ownership for performing their role.

And the benefit is not only to the employers. You personally will find greater personal satisfaction from achieving targets you have chosen to set yourself. Everyone wins!

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4. Great time management and organization skills make you highly productive.

Being able to exercise versatility with these work skills needs no explanation. Great time management does not mean multi-tasking. It actually uses more brain power and reduces effectiveness.

Having great skills to prioritize your activities and demands, being able to assess how long things might take you to address are planning skills which greatly aid effective and better execution.

Working in harmony with your colleagues’ timetables makes for better teamwork and workflow plus a less stressed environment.

In today’s working world, any strategies for reducing stress-invoking opportunities are like finding golden nuggets. Your employer will want to hold on to those for dear life!

5. Be a flexible team player by being able to change roles when required.

Employers will be looking to see how flexible a team player, a potential employee could be.

If you are a natural leader, being a better team player might, in fact, mean you stepping down from the helm and encouraging someone else to exercise and step into their leadership potential.

It might be more beneficial to your employer to play the role of Indian as opposed to the Chief in certain situations. Stepping into different positions on your team not only helps you grow but also the rest of your team.

Employers relish having a versatile work team which can adapt and is ready and willing to play different roles, even if uncomfortable when crises happen.

6. Initiative, self-motivated and driven.

When you have your own internal reasons for looking to undertake a role your motivation is driven by something sizzling inside of you.

There is a personal drive and desire for the satisfaction you will experience when you meet a certain target that no other person will be able to give to you.

When you can genuinely identify and demonstrate your own personal connection to the role’s objectives and the greater goals of your employer’s business, they will see you have an internal drive that they don’t need to whip and flog to keep the momentum going.

Any employer will be grateful they just need to help navigate you and support you with the right tools and network and off you go.

7. Be confident but not arrogant.

Imagine if you were conducting initial telephone interviews with shortlisted candidates and one of the questions they asked was:

“How long would it be until I’ll be eligible for a pay rise or promotion?”

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There is a significant difference between being confident and arrogant. Employers are not looking for confidence purely in you being able to perform every aspect of your role at gold star level.

It comes with being comfortable to say you don’t understand, you have made a mistake, you need support, further training, acknowledging what your limits are and being willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone.

When you’re a new kid on the block, respecting that you may need to learn to walk before you can run is essential. Unless it is your job to start making significant changes from day one, chances are you’re going to create enemies if you’re so confident your new methods and ideas should replace existing processes.

8. A positive attitude.

Demonstrating positivity as a work skill that will truly win over your new employer is about being genuine and actively applying strategies which look for the glass half full.

Recruiters and employers are not dumb. They can easily see through short-term bright smiles, nervous giggling and general ‘you just need to think positive’ statements.

In the face of grueling challenges, employers are going to look much more favorably on that candidate who can acknowledge the negative features of a situation but still encourage another solution-focused perspective to be adopted.

Even better, if you can use language effectively to demonstrate how you have adopted a positive perspective and helped turned around a tough situation.

It is one thing to have a positive attitude but your potential employer will see you as a superhero if you can show them how you have successfully applied it.

9. You are resourceful but know the value of asking for help.

There is nothing more unproductive (let alone frustrating) than that person who simply asks out loud a question to their team when they could simply have Googled the answer.

Or worse still, they have a manual at their fingertips which has the answer to their question…they were simply too lazy to look for themselves.

Be that person with Sherlock Holmes as their middle name who sleuths like a dog after a buried bone. You can research and turn over stones to discover and learn what you need but you also are able to ask for help and assistance when you need to.

Any employer will relish that person who looks to discover the answers to their own questions first before reaching out and asking for help.

10. Emotional intelligence creates a harmonious workflow.

Despite the level of seniority of your role having a strong ability to handle emotions is fast becoming an essential work skill (and also life skill).

It is even more desirable for any employer when your work skill set includes the ability to detect, adapt to and have skills in managing certain emotional patterns of others you need to work with, manage or report to.

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So much time, energy and productivity is lost due to individuals’ lack of skills in this area. Any manager who can see you possess and can demonstrate such versatile work skills will think they’ve won the managerial lottery!

11. Be able to adapt your learning style.

There is no real evidence that using preferred learning styles actually increase the rate at which we learn nor the effectiveness of certain styles.

However, being able to make changes to what we are given to learn and adapting it to suit our needs and preferences does help us settle into a new work transition sooner.

We also need to recognize that even though we feel uncomfortable learning a new skill a certain way, it might actually be the way we need to receive it to cement the learning. It is also likely that our new employer only knows or has a budget to deliver training in a certain way.

Either we can choose to adapt or resist but we know for sure the latter is not going to benefit to anyone.

12. Flexible leadership style.

Dan Goleman has conducted extensive research on different leadership styles, emphasizing that being versatile to switch between different styles (e.g. authoritative, coaching, affiliate, coercive, pace-setting) and knowing when to do is a fundamental skill for any leader.

Being able to change your style to lead other people is as important as how you lead your own role responsibilities.

13. Incredible communication skills that actively listen and give clear messages.

Strong and effective communication across all mediums takes time, life experience and highly developed intuition.

Knowing when to use email, a face to face conversation or telephone discussion is one thing. Another is to use words which emotionally connect and influence the receiver to accept, hear and heed your message.

Great communicators know that it is their responsibility as much as the receiver for good communication to take place. However, they also know that the receiver may not feel this is the case.

When you can listen equally, be sensitive to read between the lines to hear the message of ineffective communicators and can respond kindly with inspiring, equalizing and encouraging words, your influence and general likeability as a new addition to your employer’s team will develop in leaps and bounds.

14. Accountability, responsible and dependable.

We’ve all worked with people or managers at some point who lay external blame the instance something goes wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, making mistakes and owning up to it is a highly desirable and versatile work skill that gains loyalty and understanding particularly when mistakes occur.

Owning up to errors early allows both yourself and the business to recover quickly and shows you’re willing to take responsibility to continue forward on when you have stumbled.

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When you illustrate you can do this, you build your employer’s trust and faith in you.

15. Exercise proactive self-awareness.

Self-reflection is a highly empowering work skill that contributes greatly to becoming better and performing better.

When you actively look for the achievement, celebrate your success and look for pockets of where mistakes you have made can be corrected you improve faster, become more effective and make your work easier.

When you start to look at your own errors, receiving feedback from your employer about the same errors can feel far less confronting and having corrective conversations is easier, transparent and far less stressful and emotional.

You naturally increase your resilience and make life easier for yourself and your employer if you conduct regular self-check-ins and keep your employer updated.

16. Apply a problem-solving growth mindset.

When faced with a problem or challenge, your ability to activate a growth mindset is a highly versatile work skill employers love. Not only are you able to reduce the pain and anguish that a fixed mindset can sustain but your ability to remain open to possibilities to find different pathways or ideas is refreshing and helpful.

If your thought patterns automatically ask: “How can we?” or you often think “there must be a way”, you will only contribute to creating growth opportunities for your organization and inspire others to think the same way.

17. Be teachable.

If you have ever tried to teach someone a new skill or technique and they keep reverting back to traditional ways that are familiar to them, you might have become frustrated to the point of giving up.

Don’t be that person who’s stuck in tradition which no longer serves the business. Whether you are entering a new environment, learning new software or negotiation skills, know that all employers need people who are open to being taught.

Innovation is a core concern of every business. Innovation means change and change means doing something different.

Stay versatile and keep learning

Technical skills can often be taught. Ray Croc illustrated how well a systemized franchise can dominate the planet. Over 36,000 McDonald’s establishments around the world are run by managers barely in their twenties!

Soft work skills, however, take time to develop, learn and confidently apply.

There is a key combination of work skills that would make any candidate employer’s dream. However, the essential factor underlying all of these work skills is versatility.

Equip yourself with these 17 work skills, stay curious and keep learning; and you’ll always nail the job you want.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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