When an employee insults you

by Catherine Welborn, editor

Problem: You recently learned that an otherwise good employee is talking maliciously about you to other employees, insulting your intelligence, calling you names and so on. You can’t help but be offended—hurt even—but you must address the situation and fast.

Solution: Follow these tips to put an end to the disrespectful and highly inappropriate behavior.

  • Act quickly. As uncomfortable as the conversation might be, don’t put it off. If you wait, the employee could increase the frequency or severity of the comments. Worse, other staff members might adopt the same attitude and behavior. Nip it in the bud as soon as you can arrange a private, one-on-one meeting with the employee.
  • Use “I” statements. If you use “You” statements, such as “You have been bad-mouthing me,” the employee may feel like you are attacking him or her. Those statements also imply that you’ve made up your mind about the situation, without first gathering all the details. Instead, calmly use “I” statements like “I’ve heard that you said …” Such statements are objective and indicate that you are committed to gathering all the facts before you respond.
  • Address both problems. Certainly you want to discuss your employee’s malicious talk, but don’t miss the opportunity to identify and remedy the original issue as well. Ask your employee what you’ve done—or not done—that led to the insult. Listen. Agree to consider the person’s points, and follow up with a plan for resolving the conflict. That will show the employee that you set the same high standards for yourself that you do for him or her.
  • Move on. Once you’ve addressed the situation with the employee, let it go. You must trust and respect the employee, and you must be fair when it comes to enforcing rules, addressing performance, rewarding behavior and so on. However, if the employee doesn’t change the behavior, you have grounds for letting him or her go. Unfortunately, that may end up being the best solution. A worker with a disrespectful attitude can undermine the morale and productivity of your whole workforce.

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Delivered each month, Bud to Boss Take 5 offers you advice for resolving your most perplexing management problems. Even better: You need only 5 minutes to read each issue of the e-letter and find workable solutions that you can put to use immediately!


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