In March 2017 I posted, on HR Daily, The Toxic Grinch – it attracted nearly 2,700 reads. A Grinch in the workplace makes for a cheerless and gloomy environment. A variant on this type of dysfunctional employee is the dependent. It is likely that you have encountered one or more in your work history. You will remember because they are unforgettable. If you work in HR you will know them well for reason of the grief and distractions they create. Happily they are not great in number – about 1 per cent in my experience. But, they give their managers, leaders and team mates 70 to 80 per cent of their grief.

The dependent employee is just about beyond saving yet considerable resources are consumed in attempts to rehabilitate or ‘cure’ them.

This type of problem employee is a whole lot of trouble for they consume so much time and energy. What then are the characteristics of the problem employee? Here are some:

• lazy
• incompetent
• ignorant
• artless
• indifferent
• obstructive
• disagreeable
• challenging
• resistant
• unreliable
• defensive
• erratic
• apathetic
• negative
• hindering
• antagonistic
• relinquishing
• helpless
• hapless
• cunning
• lying
• litigious
• anxious

They are always high maintenance. They are melancholic, they sook, have no resilience and are often the butt of office jokes. They live life on the ‘pause’ button. Their life is full of drama yet it is mostly entirely of their own making. When challenged they seek to excuse themselves with retorts like:
It was not my fault; you just don’t like me; you are picking on me again; I don’t feel well; you are harassing me; you are bullying me again; I never get a fair go; I just can’t do it; you expect too much; you always need to control me; you are being unfair ; you just don’t understand.

Oftentimes these folk will also rely upon past misfortunes to excuse themselves. Like:
I was in foster care; my parents divorced when I was young; my hamster didn’t like me:
I was abused as a child; my divorce has distracted me: I have some personal problems; the cat ate my mouse; my mother was an alcoholic; it’s my old workplace injury that’s causing me some trouble; you have never helped me; from my first day I’ve been excluded by my team; I’m still getting over the last run in with you.

These folk typically take more time off due to illness than any of their colleagues; they taken frequent sickies, they will find an excuse or reason for everything; they create trouble at training; they interrupt distract and annoy their colleagues; they whisper and gossip; they get injured more easily than anyone else; they complain frequently; they create difficulties with clients, customers and colleagues; they require more training than others; they make most mistakes and their work is often subject to rework; their performance is consistently problematic. They often attend upon Employee Assistance Service providers, counselors, grievance officers, health and safety officers, union officials, medical practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists.

These employees have mostly been around longer than most, they never get promoted, they complain something fierce when they are overlooked and are often parked in a place where they cause least disruption. They are always dependent. Too often the trouble is that the organization drip feeds them without really noticing. Too often the organization gives up and then begins to tolerate these folk. The tragedy is that the organization may even extend tacit permission for them to behave the way they do.

There is only one solution and it’s three strikes and you’re out! Great care is required to carefully marshal the facts, gather the evidence and to build a robust and sustainable case. You can bet on one thing, these troublemakers will litigate. Often it is the fear of them doing so, and the fact that they have got away with their dependency for many years, that causes the organization to tolerate them. Much a pity for they ought to have been starved long ago.

I have a message for these workplace sookers: Sook off! Get yourself professional help before the organization gives up on you. The trouble is they never read stuff like this and they shun advice as they bury themselves in their perpetual misery that they seek to nurture. Never feel sorry for this cohort as this only serves to further sustain them. They will like you and call you their friend which will be always to your disadvantage.

If you depend on others,
you will soon go hungry

Share this when you next have to deal with the dependent. You may feel better but it will make no difference!

Derived from Leadership with a ‘T’ ( yes, I still hope for a publisher)

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