Ethical Conduct and Leadership: The Recalcitrant Employee (Part 2 of 2)

by Mark Leonard

As a leader you have to enforce standards for quality of work and conduct.  If you have a good team, you can make judgment calls to let some of the official company policies slide as long as you are meeting your requirement as a department.  You can allow some flexibility with things like dress code or work hours as long as you are getting the job done.  For instance, KBR required that all office employees wear a collared shirt tucked in.  We were working in a warzone, so as long as employees looked professional, I wouldn’t reprimand a female employee for wearing a nice shirt un-tucked.  However, if you have one employee who is constantly pushing past the limits of acceptable standards of conduct and work ethic relative to the rest of the department, it creates discord within the department.  In order to reprimand the employee, you have to strictly apply all standards across the board or else the employee will simply cite instances where others in the department violated policies, even though these violations are small and do not have a tangible impact on operations.

After struggling with Bo G. over the course of a month to get him to shape up and fall in line, I issued expectations counseling to all of my employees.  They had to sign a document stating that they would follow all conduct policies and adhere to my expectations of their work.  It was rough on the other employees because they couldn’t get away with some of the little things anymore, but I knew I needed to start building a case and citing instances where Bo G. was breaking the rules.  If I was going to issue a counseling statement against him, I would need to present a clear case showing that he was breaking the rules and no one else was.

Bo G. never quite got it, and I started documenting his recalcitrant behavior and communicating with HR and my area manager in preparation for filing and HR case against him.  Before I could take action, the regional office called and told me they needed another employee to fill a vacant slot.  I told them all about Bo G. and his faults but they really just needed someone to monitor the phones at night, so they weren’t overly worried about his insubordination issues.  I put Bo G. on a helicopter the next day.  Before he left I called him into my office and pulled out my log of his behavior issues.  I went down the list, explaining how the hardcore disciplinarians at regional would deal with such recalcitrance.  He left my office wide eyed and I found out later that day that when he arrived at regional, he went straight to HR and turned in his resignation.  Ultimately, I guess he decided that he would rather go home than follow the rules, which was much easier than me or my colleagues at regional making that decision for him!

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By mandybowling

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