Immature, Self-Absorbed, or Clueless? How to Save Employees from Themselves.

Employees can be maddening. They often behave in ways that seem to make no sense.

As supervisors, we try to understand what we see and hear, putting it into some kind of context so we can decide what, if anything, we should do.

No one said the job would be easy, but there are times it seems impossible.

Pay close attention

All employees come to work with personal job expectations and the history that spawned them.

As supervisors, we expect employees to perform their job duties, achieving set goals and adhering to standards and practices.

Simple, right?

Unfortunately, some employees don’t see their jobs from either a supervisor’s or the company’s perspective. They see them predominantly through a lens focused on their personal needs.

The temptation is to label these employees as immature, self-absorbed, and/or clueless, and then assume they are “young,” newly-minted entrants into the work world. Both would be a mistake.

Instead, the first signs of immaturity, self-absorption, and cluelessness that impact work negatively need to be identified and discussed with the employee right away.

As supervisors, if we let them slide, we:

  • grant employees a pass to continue them
  • validate that they are acceptable
  • establish them as the basis for replication by others
  • fail to correct issues that will hurt their future opportunities

If this makes you feel like a parent, that’s probably apt, especially for supervisors who have employees that don’t know how to:

  • behave professionally
  • connect their work with “why”¬† and “what” they are paid
  • subordinate their personal wants and needs to the “team”
  • connect the dots between what they do and how it affects the business

Make them matter

Part of a supervisor’s job is to help their employees avoid self-destructing, especially out of naivet√©. This isn’t easy for two reasons:

  • Those conversations generally awkward for the supervisor.
  • Employees don’t want to or can’t, at the time, hear what you’re saying.

Employees are important people in any organization. It costs a lot to hire them and to fire them. By the time you get to supervise them, there was probably money spent to train them.

Aside from that, if, you, as a supervisor, know that an employee is doing things that will negatively affect his/her career, you really need to try to get through to them.

Think of it this way: If the employee’s behavior continues, they will eventually be so undesirable anywhere in the company, that they may one day lose their job. What you do to help them may save them from themselves.

Cues and clues

It can be easy to gloss over behaviors that lead to problems over time. They may seem unimportant at first, but when added together, can become career ending. Here are some examples:

Immaturity

  • Work attire that pushes the envelope
  • Excessive socializing
  • Excuses for unfinished work, lateness, and non-compliance with direction
  • An undisciplined approach to assignments

Self-Absorption

  • Need for repeated recognition and praise
  • Demands for promotion based solely on time in the current position
  • Expressed dissatisfaction with their job title
  • Compulsive use of social media on the job

Cluelessness

  • Lack of emotional intelligence with their supervisor and coworkers
  • Narrow view of the impact and implications of ideas/decisions
  • Poor judgment and lack of sensitivity when communicating
  • Weak understanding of the business model and their role in it

Knowledge saves

We’ve all had career “don’t get it” moments. If we were lucky, we had family, friends, great bosses, colleagues, and mentors within reach to straighten us out.

That’s what supervisors need to be–teachers who will level with employees, help them retool their perspectives, and provide a better course of action to take.

I agree this can be icky. I’ve had my share of employees and clients who didn’t want to hear what I had to say, but I kept saying it until the day it registered. That day made all the frustrating ones worth it.

We often can’t save ourselves from ourselves until someone throws us a life preserver. Let that be you.

Photo from noelle-christine-images via Flickr

9 thoughts on “Immature, Self-Absorbed, or Clueless? How to Save Employees from Themselves.

  1. My thanks to Jen Gresham, blogger at Everyday Bright, for this terrific comment that she was kind enough to email to me:.

    ” Agree. It’s hard to do these things, and many supervisors focus on the unpleasantness of this singular conversation. I think what might help some supervisors is to consider all the other employees who are made uncomfortable and wish the supervisor would take action. Imagine the conversations the supervisor could be having with all those employees, and one awkward one seems much easier.”

    If you haven’t yet visited Jen’s blog, she really should! Thanks again, Jen.

  2. Excellent points. Supervisors definitely have to remember that the employee’s poor attitude and behavior affects the whole team, and reflects poorly on them.

    • Thanks, Susan. I’m with you on the impact of problematic behavior. Abdicating our responsibility to nip things in the bud only make things worse. Supervisors are paid to supervise, intervene, and correct…not to look the other way. Thanks for this wonderful point. ~Dawn

  3. Great article with very helpful insight, Dawn! It’s so easy to see employee behavior negatively, especially when it impacts production – but it is so much more helpful for supervisors AND the operation to try to understand and correct!

    • Beautifully said, Dan. All of us are capable of behaviors that are negative triggers that are so often signs of need, even when we don’t understand it ourselves. That’s why supervisors are so important–they are the ones best positioned to steer us in ways that can turn us around. Thanks for this great comment! ~Dawn

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