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I manage a satellite office of about 25 people for my company.

This question is about Jane, a new employee. She is young, in her mid 20s. I was the one who hired her. She seemed very pleasant and friendly, which is the reason I hired her in the first place. Skill is of secondary importance, as our philosophy is that skill comes with experience.

However, ever since she was hired, I've heard various coworkers of hers complain about her.

Mainly, from what I understand she seems to be self-centered or not having the proper team mentality/etiquette that is expected of her.

She looks bored in meetings, asks to work overtime so she can have extra days off and not use any of her already available days off for the year, uploads Instagram stories regarding her personal life while she is at work. She does not seem to be in line with the culture of the rest of the team.

She asks about how much people make, while in our company our policy is don't ask; don't tell. When she doesn't get the answer she wants from her team leader, she will come to me and ask the same thing. Our annual team event was put on a date she can't attend and she asked if we can put it on a different date. Same thing with a presentation.

I am really not sure what I must do. More often than not I feel more like a therapist than a manager, but I don't have the answers to everything and some external input would be of so much value to me.

Is this a team inability to deal with a different person, or does she have to change her ways? We cannot judge her work output as she's only been with us for less than 6 months.

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Something I want to make clear first: dealing with coworkers, attitude during meetings, respecting someone senior... These are all things that fall under an employee's performance. It's not just the actual work they do, but their behavior and their relationship with colleagues and higher ups are areas where the manager has the authority (and even the responsibility) to manage their employee. An employee can produce good work but be a nightmare to work with, and can be fired for that. I'm not saying Jane should be fired, but the fact that you mention "We cannot judge her work output as she's only been with us for less than 6 months." makes me think you don't see those issues as performance issues, hence something that doesn't fall under your purview. Some of them are and you can (and should) address them with Jane.

So manage this employee (and the other). How do you do this effectively?

1. Try to witness the actions yourselves, and if not ask questions

Seeing those behaviors in action would be best. It's best to act on something that you witnessed than rely on people's (sometimes unreliable) complaints. And telling someone her colleagues have been complaining about her can really impact her relationship with all her coworkers (she might get paranoid, knowing one or more employees complained about her).

But you're working remotely, so this might not be possible. So have a chat with the team lead (and maybe a trusted coworker or two) and get a full picture of what is happening and what employees are mad about.

Still, when you'll have that talk with Jane, try to leave out what other people said and focus on what you can witness as much as possible.

2. Don't just repeat complaints, reflect on them

There are several things you list that don't seem to be an outright problem to me. So check with yourself (and your company policy) what is absolutely unacceptable, what is frowned upon, and what falls under "people can be different". Are there stuff colleagues are mad about but you (and the company) are fine with? Or is it all just a big no and collides with the company's culture (many things you're mentioning makes me think of a clash between young employee versus more experienced ones)?

  • Looking bored in meetings: what does it mean? How does she appear bored in meetings? Is she on her phone? It could be she is taking notes. Or she's keeping her hands busy which allows her to focus better that way.
  • Overtime: does your company policy allow it? If so, is it an issue that she takes advantage of it? Are people annoyed just because of the principle, or does it have an impact on her training and "productivity"?
  • Uploading Instagram stories: is it just a couple that she does during a break? Or does she update her social media accounts regularly throughout the day? If it's a former, is it an issue that she's on social media five minutes a day on her breaks?
  • Asking about people's salary: is there something in the company's handbook forbidding it? Or is it something people are uncomfortable with? Also, is it illegal in your country/state to ask an employee not the ask this question?

You get the gist, those aren't as black and white as one might think. Maybe all the things she's doing would be OK in another work environment. Or it is her first job and she's just clueless (and none of you have apparently tried to clue her in). Or she's just selfish and entitled. But many of these things could be attributed to her being clueless, so I would give her the benefit of the doubt and approach her with this perspective in mind.

So list all issues after the research you made in point #1, and think about them. Some you might want to put a stop to it (like undermining your team lead), others you'll need more information from her. Some might not be important to you but you'll want to clue her in so that she has a better grasp of the culture of your office. And some you might choose to let go entirely.

3. Have a conversation with that employee

I would make a selection of the top 3 or top 5 things to address, it might be a lot for her otherwise. Have a discussion with her, get a sense of why she did or said certain things. And explain very clearly what she needs to change to succeed in this company. These are more "personal" issues, so many managers feel rude and mean to point them out. But the real kindness is to be honest and upfront with an employee about things that could hinder their career in this company. It is absolutely possible to do this kindly too, I recommend to go to the Ask a Manager website for ideas on tone and scripts.

4. Check up regularly with her and your other employees, and stand by them

Follow up on those things with her and with your team lead. Later on, if there are still some points you wish to address you can do it then.

And if you hear she keeps doing something you've asked her to stop, act on it like any performance issue. In the same vein, if there is something that you decided is not an issue, be clear with employees who complain about this that it isn't an issue for you/the company. By being clear with everybody about what is acceptable or not, resentment should lessen from all sides.

  • This is the kind of answer I was hoping to get. Thanks for the input. – hermann May 6 at 16:44
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    @hermann Should be easier to witness said behaviors then. You can/should still talk to the team (you can't see everything after all), but take those complaints as something you should check out for yourself, instead of just taking them at face value. It's a lot of work, but hopefully she's just being clueless and there will be no issues once you've explained things to her. – MlleMei May 6 at 16:53
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    Great answer! The spaces in front of the question marks is really weird though – reggaeguitar May 7 at 15:51
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    My reactions were fairly similar. Bored in meetings? Perhaps the meetings are boring. Perhaps there's nothing she can learn from them and nothing she can contribute. Overtime? Perhaps she has interests or responsibilities outside work and is trying hard to find a good work-life balance. Salaries? Perhaps her parents are pressing her to find a job with prospects so she can repay the money they have lent her, so she needs to make a realistic assessment of what the prospects are. Instagram? Perhaps like me she sometimes needs to recharge her batteries (why else would I be on this site?) – Michael Kay May 7 at 20:37
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    Working overtime to earn extra free days sounds perfectly normal to me. Some companies allow it, some doesn't. Nobody can be blamed for asking. – Agent_L May 8 at 17:34
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I am really not sure what I must do.

Since you are their manager, you must manage the team. That means managing the existing team and the new hires both.

It appears that you haven't gotten to the bottom of what's going on, but are instead reacting to just rumors and complaints.

So it's time to dig in. Talk with this new hire. Talk with the team. Draw some conclusions.

If you conclude that this is (or could be) a good worker, then you need to spend more time coaching her. Schedule one-on-one meetings. Discuss what you are seeing in how she works (not rumors). Discuss how this differs from what you expect. Discuss how she can get to where you need her to be.

Follow up in later sessions and congratulate her any improvement you see. If you aren't seeing the expected improvement, emphasize the consequences of not achieving the kind of team culture that you feel is necessary.

If she still doesn't improve sufficiently, get rid of her and find a replacement that will succeed.

Is this a team inability to deal with a different person, or does she have to change her ways?

That's a conclusion only you can make.

We cannot judge her work output as she's only been with us for less than 6 months.

You may wish to change your process for evaluating new hires' progress. Simply not knowing anything for 6 months seems odd to me.

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    Agreed. Especially the part about waiting 6 months to eval her progress. Most of the issues that OP mentions are attitude issues, not lack of time at the company issues. Attitude issues should be common sense, not specific to time with the company. If they are playing on their phone during an meeting and not paying attention, that's something that can and should be addressed immediately, not after 6 months, etc. Of course you would need to investigate (with the proper attitude/tone) what they are doing on their phone and not accuse from the start. – JeffC May 7 at 14:07
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I'm going to second everything Joe Strazzere said, but would also like to specifically address this:

When she doesn't get the answer she wants from her team leader, she will come to me and ask the same thing.

That has to be stopped, immediately. I would schedule a meeting with her, her team lead, and you, and specifically address this right now, and explain that this behavior will not be tolerated. This is stuff that parents of 5-year-olds have to deal with (ask me how I know), not grown adults.

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    This is an approach I would rather avoid at all costs. Display of power and ultimatums are not the answer. This will only help to instill fear or have them push back at equal force by being unpredictably stupid. I prefer to be patient and work towards a friendlier solution rather than punch someone in the face with the fact that I can fire them. I like to think myself more as a good example towards the rest of team, and abuse of power is something I despise. I don't want anyone to live in fear. I choose to help my team change towards the better in their own will, perhaps with a little nudge :) – hermann May 6 at 16:41
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    @hermann You can do this without ultimatums. I do agree that this is the most worrisome of all the examples you've cited. This is in fact the one thing I won't wait on and have a discussion with her ASAP. You can still be kind, ask her why she does this, but unless she has a good reason, be clear that for issues/questions related to X, Y and Z you trust them and she should too. And stick to that if/when she does it again. – MlleMei May 6 at 16:51
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    I agree with the general outcome of appropriate boundaries, but the tone of your statement reads to me like it would come off as a closed door policy. I'd even agree with the meeting, but would suggest more of a guiding than commanding tone. Lay out that the manager is there because she has your faith. You are open to discussion, but you generally agree with the manager and should be approached more when a decision cannot be made, manager is unailable or a real need for arbitration exists. Overriding the leader I already trust is likely to be uncommon. – John Spiegel May 6 at 16:51
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    @hermann - I can understand wanting to avoid this. Most people are naturally conflict-averse. However, this employee is DIRECTLY CAUSING conflict with this behavior. Also, this is a very childish behavior, so you have to look more to "parenting" resources than managing techniques. If you have kids, you'll recognize this. The fact she's also asking about everyone's salary is a big indicator that this person has learned to utilize "instability" in authority figures to her advantage. We studied this in detail in foster parenting classes. – Wesley Long May 6 at 17:56
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    While I'm sympathetic towards that attitude @hermann, and find it works well for many people, it doesn't work well for everyone. In my experience that kind of friendly management style is also one that allows some really toxic and morale-killing people to continue their toxicity for far longer than they should. Some boundaries must be clearly stated early and without possibility of misunderstanding when they're transgressed. – Martin Tournoij May 6 at 19:06
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I manage a satellite office of about 25 people for my company.

Let's start with that : you are responsible for not only the work output of that office, but the development of it. I sense possibly a problem with the development part, whether it's company policy or your own style and/or her team leader.

I would like to talk about one of the employees. Jane is a new employee, and also young, in her mid 20s. I was the one who hired her.

Let's hope you changed the name, because you should never discuss an employee even by first name online in such circumstances.

She seemed very pleasant and friendly, which is the reason I hired her in the first place.

You hired her. Let's keep that in mind.

Skill is of secondary importance, as our philosophy is that skill comes with experience.

Did you include skills dealing with team based work and formal policy and structure in considering this ? Pleasant and friendly at an interview isn't enough.

If you hired her on the basis that she was young and "had potential" then it's your job to help her develop the skills required to work in teams and within a formal office policy. Most workers starting out (and sometimes for years in my experience) do not have these skills and they need to be taught. I think you are expecting her to pick it up herself - don't.

Help and guide. Act as a mentor in this aspect of working.

However, ever since she was hired, I've heard various coworkers of hers complain about her. Mainly, from what I understand she seems to be self-centered or not having the proper team mentality/etiquette that is expected of her.

There you go - doesn't know how to function in her team and within an organizational structure. Is this being taught to her ?

Teach her.

It's your job - you and her team leader need to be supportive and mentoring.

Look at your own performance - consider whether you (and her team lead) have done enough to teach her (without confrontation, but as mentors) to integrate and behave as part of a team.

She looks bored in meetings

Most people are bored at meetings. Very few people find their day enlivened by meetings. I personally die a little inside when I hear the term "meeting".

People with little experience will find them even less useful. Again it's you and her team leader who need to explain and help develop her (and other subordinates) to understand the purpose and function of meetings.

A particular note : if she's a technical person, note that technical people do not generally find meetings useful or constructive. For technical people, non-technical meetings have a default setting or "off". I presume that e.g. the marketing and sales people find our technically biased meetings equally life draining.

Also consider one other option : the meetings may be genuinely irrelevant to her. Keep meetings to a minimum for all staff. Someone's presence at a meeting should have a purpose and they must understand what that purpose is for them.

, asks to work overtime so she can have extra days off and not use any of her already available days off for the year

And this is a problem how ?

Has it affected her work quality ?

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

She's only been there six months, so you can't know how that relates to her yearly use of leave (I presume).

It's possible she has personal reasons for preferring to use overtime in this way. She may be trying to impress people by doing a lot of extra work under the (apparently incorrect) impression that her bosses will appreciate her willingness to work overtime (and who actually wants to do that ?). Maybe she's actually filling a role that others do not want to and is underappreciated for it.

So open your mind to this not being a problem and maybe just quietly and discretely ask her why she does so much overtime (if it's a real problem for work or rules about leave - something she may not be aware of ?).

, uploads Instagram stories regarding her personal life while she is at work.

So far that's the only thing she's definitely doing wrong (and frankly that's as common as dirt these days). A discrete and politely phrased "you need to stop this in work hours" might be enough to give guidance here.

Also consider she may be doing this on breaks or to break up a dull routine. Again, is this really affecting work quality or quantity negatively ? Doing this may help her stay sharp - be open to this possibility. Think carefully about what issues are real problems and what are illusory ones.

She does not seem to be in line with the culture of the rest of the team.

A pretty vague expression, but it's you and her team leader who need to teach, explain, mentor. What have you done to (constructively) teach her about team working environments ?

As you describe it you hired a smile and not much else. Skills were not important. You have to teach the rest and you took that responsibility on when you hired her. She probably has no idea what is expected of her by you and by people already used to working in that environment.

Not all team working is the same from place to place. Even experienced people can be thrown by not understanding the different expectations of team working arrangements in a new job.

Her team lead seems deficient here. Complaining is not a solution. The two of you need to develop ways to help her learn what you need.

She asks about how much people make, while in our company our policy is don't ask; don't tell.

A policy that's quite silly, IMO, but that's hardly here or there. It may be illegal (check that !), but if it's not you need to simply and clearly explain that those are the rules and you don't make them.

When she doesn't get the answer she wants from her team leader, she will come to me and ask the same thing.

This doesn't tell us whether or not your team leader is answering her questions at all, side stepping them, not explaining the rationale to the new person (always a good idea) or may be a poor communicator. I've had experience of far too many bad team leaders to think this is not a possibility.

If it's genuinely a problem, then she needs to have it explained to her (by you) that except in extreme cases she should not be by-passing her team leader (assuming that is in fact her line manager).

If she really can't conform with that and it's how your company works then you should consider asking HR about the correct formal procedure for giving warnings, and escalating all the way to firing. If she simply refuses to comply after all the warnings then that's not fixable.

Our annual team event was put on a date she can't attend and she asked if we can put it on a different date. Same thing with a presentation.

Not actually a real problem.

Could even be interpreted as expressing a genuine interest in things and wondering if it's possible to arrange that.

She asks. So what ? It's a team event and if she wants to ask if it can be rescheduled before that's finalized then let her ask. You can say "yes" or "no". It's not really a problem.

If you don't want this question asked, the simply state in the announcement that the date cannot be changed and is set in stone.

I am really not sure what I must do. More often than not I feel more like a therapist than a manager, but I don't have the answers to everything and some external input would be of so much value to me.

Mentoring from team leader and you may be inadequate. I get the impression you expect her to work out what you both expect, and that may run counter to her experience to date.

Explain the rationale. Teach. Guide.

Remember, she's young and you hired her based on her personal charisma (it seems) and little else (and not skills). That's not her fault.

Is this a team inability to deal with a different person, or does she have to change her ways ?

Hard to know for sure, but note that in that question the two people you didn't mention were you and her team leader. I suspect the problem is at least in part here.

We cannot judge her work output as she's only been with us for less than 6 months.

This implies to me you understand that it's a role where she is being trained in.

I think you (and the team lead) do not realize that you have to teach skills beyond her immediate work tasks. Soft skills, team skills, her fit in the overall scheme, why things work the way they do.

You may not be a therapist, but you and the team lead should be teachers.

Ideally the whole team should be in "teach the new person" mode. And it can take months to do this.

I'd start with that.

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    Thank you for this answer. There's lots of information missing from my original post that I didn't want to include or my question would be 4 times the size, but I can see how this might not be entirely her fault but also mine. – hermann May 7 at 7:42
  • @hermann Thank you for the open-minded view of my answer. – StephenG May 7 at 8:04
  • You look at each listen item from a different perspective, and that can be valuable, but I disagree with some of your perspectives. This employee really is coming across as spoiled / entitled, and while the OP should definitely have done more to mentor her from the get-go, someone in their mid 20's should know better than to do some of the things she's doing (aka bypassing her boss because she didn't like the answer, being disrespectfully inattentive in meetings, etc.) – AndreiROM May 7 at 13:08
  • +1. Several of the other answers don't even address that several of these bullet points are not objectively problems. – chrylis May 7 at 18:27
  • Good points. Did anyone else get the feeling that this girl was hired as eye-candy and that it was a bit of a bummer when she turned out to have a personality? – Elise van Looij May 9 at 11:48
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... Skill is of secondary importance, as our philosophy is that skill comes with experience.

To be honest, thats no a good start - this attitude sets the tone for the expectations in a non-objective way.

However, ever since she was hired, I've heard various coworkers of hers complain about her. Mainly, from what I understand she seems to be self-centered or not having the proper team mentality/etiquette that is expected of her. She looks bored in meetings, ...

These are pretty broad and subjective topics, and most likely have no value in discussing with her - i would not even bother to investigate

asks to work overtime so she can have extra days off and not use any of her already available days off for the year,

Explain that you need her well rested for the job, and that such behavior (overtime without need and then being absent longer than normal) also takes a toll on her colleagues. Make it clear to her that the team is not at her disposal to fulfill her drams of more days off.

uploads Instagram stories regarding her personal life while she is at work.

Not acceptable, and you should tell that to the whole team and see if it stops for her. If it doesn't, tell to her personally

She asks about how much people make, while in our company our policy is don't ask; don't tell.

Dont tell is ok, but don't ask seems a little bit over the top - still, explain to her that it's no ok.

When she doesn't get the answer she wants from her team leader, she will come to me and ask the same thing.

Tell her: align with the team lead

Our annual team event was put on a date she can't attend and she asked if we can put it on a different date. Same thing with a presentation.

Tell her: no and no

I am really not sure what I must do. More often than not I feel more like a therapist than a manager, but I don't have the answers to everything and some external input would be of so much value to me.

Don't be a therapist.

Is this a team inability to deal with a different person, or does she have to change her ways?

Both. But the team doesn't have to accommodate for a single person being a special pony.

We cannot judge her work output as she's only been with us for less than 6 months.

I have given feedback on work quality after a significantly shorter time than six months.

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Here is another take on the situation, that might help you, because I have noticed similar behaviour in colleges and myself in the past.

Jane might be feeling left out, unotivated or unappreciated by the rest of the team or the superiors. Which leads to her apathetic behaviour and creates a downward spiral.

From what i read she is extremely unhappy with her workplace.

  • Being bored in meetings is not fun for her either
  • She tries to spend as much time away from the workplace as possible (days-off)
  • She escapes to social media while at work instead of interacting with colleagues
  • She asks herself, if she is getting enough money for what she is putting up with
  • Her coworkers dont like her, and most likely she notices that

You could talk to her to confirm this by asking what you as a manager or the team could do to integrate her more into the team. Then motivate her by giving her special tasks that make her the center of attention and force the other colleagues to work with her in a non-standard setting. As she seems self-centered, that might just motivate her enough to change her dissatisfaction.

However if you sense she is actually a self-centered constant complainer with no suggestions for improvements, it might be better to let her go. This way she does not "poison" the working space any further.

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