Is Your Irritable Employee a Threat to Retaining Talent?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Is there a grumpy or irritable person bringing down the general mood of the rest of your team members? During the pandemic, your employees may have been able to avoid the individual they secretly call Dr. No. But you don’t have the luxury of sidestepping this situation, especially if your employees are returning to the office. If you don’t take action to cure the problem employee of their irritable or grumpy work behavior, you could be facing a threat to retaining talent.

Threats to Retaining Talent

Key employees leave organizations for many reasons, ranging from pay issues to the desire to score more opportunities or responsibilities. Managers usually take action to meet those work demands. But how often do they address the cranky employee issue on the team? In truth, it’s hard to know how to approach the situation, especially if you haven’t been trained, and you might find yourself avoiding the problem.

Required Manager Action

For the good of your department and your company, you’ll need to tell this team member you’ve noticed their moodiness and mention that co-​workers are hesitant to engage with them. Have this conversation in a private location where you can chat freely. If they admit they are struggling, offer them mental health resources that your organization makes available. Chronic bad moods, those lasting for a period of months, may stem from an underlying disorder such as clinical depression, anxiety or ADHD, reports Guy Winch, a psychologist, and are best handled by a professional. 

If your employee denies having any specific issues, point out a recent incident during which their work behavior was not acceptable. Maybe they blew up at a co-​worker or broke a piece of office equipment when they were angry. Ask them to explain what led to their outburst. In some cases, the employee may not be aware that their responsive was interpreted negatively. If that’s the case, remind them of the best ways to interact with others and ask them to come to you when they’re feeling stressed.

Many times, an employee’s anger grows because they don’t feel heard. Our research shows that 38% of sales professionals have left organizations because they didn’t believe anyone cared about them. When you take the time to calmly listen to their concerns, they’ll feel validated. But it will be up to you to guide the conversation and suggest specific ways they can minimize their irritation at work. For example, when they sense frustration growing, they can excuse themselves from a meeting or a conversation

Assessment Results Can Reveal a Path Forward

In other cases, the employee might not be happy with the kind of work they’re doing. They may not be consciously aware of the fact that taking customer service calls stresses them. Instead of thinking about what they’re doing, they’re acting out. To verify whether this is the case, ask the employee to take psychometric assessment that measures their job fit. A good psychometric assessment will also reveal their work traits and help you identify a better position for them. If you have the flexibility to adjust their responsibilities, make those changes.

Using Assessments to Optimize Job Fit When Hiring

Managers will often inherit a situation that involves a moody employee. You may be busy, at first, learning the rhythms of your new position, but sooner or later, another employee may bring the problem to your attention. When they do, don’t ignore it. Chances are, the last manager did, and maybe they skated by without having to worry about losing employees. But we’re operating in a challenging employment market, and team members will quickly depart if they don’t like what’s happening in their current position. 

When managers take action to ease employee tensions and discord, they also reduce the threat to retaining talent. As part of your own managerial professional development, resolve to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Before hiring a candidate you like, give them a psychometric assessment to help you see where they’ll best fit into your organization and to learn about which situations will cause them the most stress.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels