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How to Manage Problem Employees:
A Step-by-Step Guide for Turning Difficult Employees into High Performers

by Glenn Shepard

Wiley Publishing, 198 pages, $9.72

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We’ve all heard the saying that a crisis is really an opportunity in disguise. How to Manage Problem Employees is a hands-on tool for solving everyday problems with employees. It takes the view that problematic workers present unique opportunities to develop into high performers. Author Glenn Shepard takes time to delve into why managers must be equipped to deal with hard-to-deal-with people. He notes that the American work ethic has been eroding since modern conveniences transformed the nation into a drive-through one populated by couch potatoes. Using statistics and anecdotes, Shepard makes a convincing argument that many of today’s generation are spoiled, with a sense of entitlement that does not match their accomplishments.

“Managing is not a job for the faint of heart,” writes Shepard. He encourages managers to lead by example and illustrates this with the story about the Nashville police chief who volunteered to be shot with a taser gun to test their safety. How to Manage Problem Employees delineates between having control and authority and examines the difference between supervising and managing.

According to Shepard, “Being proactive is the key to preventing bad behavior.” The book tracks managing difficult levels in chronological order beginning with the problems associated with hiring. These include hiring people you intend to fix and failing to define what you are looking for in an employee before you hire. How to Manage Problem Employees is most effective when it covers how to deal with present day dilemmas. Shepard uses a figure to illustrate an anger curve, then dissects the seven stages of anger and how a manager can properly respond. By pushing someone from anger into problem-solving mode, a manager can de-escalate their anger. He describes a method a supervisor had for angry workers to write their complaints and seal them in an envelope. 24 hours later they would open the envelope together and the majority of the time, the anger had subsided.

The final chapter goes through remedies for everyday challenges problem-employees create like bringing personal problems to work and making too many personal phone calls. It includes currently relevant problems with cell phone usage, excessive Web surfing and looking for another job on company time.

Shepard includes a lot of real life scenarios and managers who have succeeding in leading their teams. Unfortunately, the book includes misspellings (e.g. referring to Web sites as sights) as well. Any supervisor who often feels like the employees are running the ship and not respecting their authority should have this comprehensive book in their toolbox.

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