Uncomfortable conversations for supervisors (Part 2): A workaholic who makes others miserable

It is much easier to avoid difficult situations in the workplace than to deal with them directly. But such a strategy provides no long-term solution and might only serve to make things worse, as many HR pros know all too well.

In a series of posts this week, we examine a variety of scenarios to see how to turn these uncomfortable situations into unbelievable results. Part I focused on the case of the good employee gone bad. In Part II, we look at the high-achieving employee whose strong productivity is not accompanied by acceptable interpersonal skills.

Workaholic Who Makes Others Miserable

Mandy is a top sales executive at a Fortune 1000 company. Mandy works long hours and frequently ignores her personal commitments. She rarely gets out of the office to eat, sleep or just have fun. Her job is her top priority and she makes that known in the workplace. Mandy frequently lashes out at her subordinates and has difficulty delegating tasks to her co-workers. Recently, Mandy yelled at her subordinate in front of a large group of people.

Brian McDermott is a labor and employment attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Indianapolis. He says Mandy’s supervisor must first recognize that Mandy is a workaholic. While Mandy’s high performance may be rewarding the company financially, this does not mean her supervisor should ignore Mandy’s actions.

McDermott recommends that Mandy’s supervisor speaks with her immediately. Mandy needs to understand that lashing out at coworkers is inconsistent with her company’s culture, negatively impacts other employees and the work environment, and is not conducive to a successful career with the company.

McDermott notes that courts have more recently discussed the concept of workplace bullying and recognize that bullying behaviors can fit within commonly-recognized legal theories, including intentional infliction of emotional distress. Bullying can also lead to decreased productivity and employee morale, employee stress and a lack of trust in supervisors.

On a more positive note, the supervisor’s talk could lead to more professional interactions by Mandy which will help improve the morale of her team and increase effectiveness and productivity (not to mention avoid unnecessary litigation).

Should Mandy claim that her behavior is related to some other issue, such as a potential disability, then her supervisor should engage in an interactive process to see if some accommodation can be made. However, this does not mean the employer is obligated to provide that accommodation if doing so would be unreasonable.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s post as we wrap up this series by featuring another lesson for employers on dealing with a difficult situation.