5 great employees who can be hard to manage, and how to keep them on track



From the hard worker who turns into an over-worker to the dedicated team member who suddenly becomes risk-averse, many positive employee behaviours have a potential downside.


Here are five great employees who present a unique challenge when it comes to harnessing their talent, and keeping them on track.

1. The Houdini


They might be one of your star employees – when you can find them. This staff member seems to live in a different time zone. They operate on their own personal clock and generally miss the first 10 minutes of every internal meeting. You are either perpetually looking for them or spending your own time catching them up on what they’ve missed.

How to keep them on track: some people are so caught up in their work that they forget to look up, even when the entire office has emptied for an all-staff meeting. This is your employee, and they need to be picked up on the way. Try stopping by their desk on the way to a meeting, or have one of their team mates give them a gentle nudge on your behalf when that meeting reminder pops up.

2. The over-extender


This employee can do it all – and that just might be the problem. They believe in an end-to-end approach to their work and regularly volunteer to take on even more responsibility. As a result, this employee is usually still at their desk when everyone else has gone home for the day. Their dedication and over-enthusiasm can jeopardise work-life balance, and put them at high risk of burnout and general fatigue.

How to keep them on track: some people need a little help letting go. Encourage your over-extender to ask for assistance, and teach them the art of delegation. By promoting a culture of trust and accountability between teams, you can help this employee feel comfortable working with others to get the job done.

3. The perfectionist


This employee always wants to do better – sometimes at the expense of getting anything done at all. Perfectionists have great attention to detail but their intense focus can put them at risk of missed deadlines and unfinished tasks when they (often unnecessarily) stress about the quality of their work.

How to keep them on track: most perfectionists have a fear of failure. Remind your perfectionist employee that whilst you greatly value their efforts, it’s okay to take risks, and that everyone makes mistakes. With this employee, remember to celebrate the little successes too, not just the big ones, and assure them that their work is already at the standard you require.

4. The absent-minded professor


We all know that genius employee who perpetually seems to have a far-away look in their eyes and their head in the clouds. They do brilliant, imaginative work for the business, but they can also seem remote or difficult to bring back down to earth, and it can be a challenge to hold their attention – or a conversation with them – for too long.

How to keep them on track: encourage the left-of-centre thinking that comes from your professor but remind them that the best ideas should be shared. Focus on communication techniques to help them in this area and set clear, tangible goals to help harness the valuable flashes of insight these employees seem to pull out of thin air.

5. The blue-sky thinker


“Here’s to the crazy ones! The ones who see things differently,” so said Steve Jobs, the original blue-sky thinker, back in 1997. Like the iconic Jobs, these employees tend to be more concerned with new ideas than with solutions to existing problems. For blue-sky thinkers, the sky really is the limit and the danger here is that they may miss the very real problems and issues right in front of them.

How to keep them on track: like the absent-minded professor, the blue-sky thinker is a valuable asset to any team – if the employee is as focused on finding novel solutions as they are on flouting convention. By encouraging an agile approach to projects and tasks, you can help this employee find a balance between trying something new and finding tangible solutions to help move the business forward.
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