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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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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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