In reflecting back over the advisory practices I’ve worked with, I’ve realized that problem employees clearly fall into two camps: what I call “Now” employees and “No” employees. “Now” employees will drop their own work, no matter how busy they are, at the request of a coworker or the owner, while “No” employees are at the other end of the spectrum, steadfastly refusing to do anything extra for anyone.
In my experience, “Now” employees usually get overwhelmed and quit, while “No” employees eventually get fired for not being team players. But the good news is that with the right training both kinds of problem employees can be re-made into very good employees who fall somewhere in the middle and base their decisions on what’s best for the firm. I have been lucky enough to work with both “Now” employees and “No” employees. Here’s how you transform them into great employees.
Ironically, “No” employees are easier to turn around. That’s because the problem usually involves only their behavior. When asked for help by another employee, their answer is invariably “No,” usually in the form of an excuse, such as: “That’s not in my job description,” “It’s too hard,” “I don’t have time,” “I don’t know how,” or if they’re particularly passive aggressive, they’ll say, “Yes,” and then not do it.
Often this behavior stems from an inability to manage their time, a lack of confidence to step out of their comfort zone, or simply a desire to do as little work as possible. But regardless of the cause, when an employee says no consistently and often, other folks will stop coming to them for help. Even worse, their coworkers will sometimes even start doing some of the tasks of the “No” employee, rather than receive another rebuke.
What the “No” employees don’t realize is that if their job isn’t done well, even if another employee does it, the failure will reflect badly on them. When that performance is called into question, the situation often turns into a blame game, and the excuse “I didn’t do it” only leads to the manager’s response: “Well, why not?”
It’s a no-win situation for the “No” employee, and can create serious disruption within an advisory firm. As I said, “No” employees usually end up getting fired for not working well with others, but that doesn’t have to be the case. “No” employees will usually change their behavior after the situation is simply brought to their attention. The fact is that even “No” employees want to get along in their working environment. Once their lack of cooperation is pointed out and compared to the teamwork exhibited by the other employees in a small business, “No” employees invariably make an effort to pitch in more, and usually find themselves enjoying their jobs more, too.
The problem with rehabilitating “No” people is that there’s a very real danger they will go too far the other way and become “Now” people. Good employees fall somewhere in the middle: They make rational decisions about what needs to be done now and what can be done later, and they know how to set boundaries and when to tell other employees no. Recovering “No” employees need to realize it’s OK to say no sometimes; the key is to discuss the situation with your coworkers, and make a decision based on what’s best for the firm and its clients.
At the other end of the spectrum, “Now” employees are a problem because in their zeal to please their coworkers, they often don’t get their own work done. Often, the owner or manager doesn’t know what else they are doing in addition to their own jobs, and usually neither the owner nor their coworkers realize how overwhelmed the “Now” employee really is. Often they are simply considered to be not very competent, or bad at managing their time.