Frank Mulligan: Corralling employees run amok
The e-mail had an intriguing subject tag: “Take control of your most difficult, frustrating and aggravating employees.”
The firstname.lastname@example.org message then went on to extol the virtues of a webinar it offered on the aforementioned topic.
However, after years of clawing my way to the very epicenter of middle management, I’ve formed a few ideas of my own on how to “take control” of employees gone wild.
One lesson I learned came from the novel, “The Godfather,” when Michael asks the Don how to say “no” to someone and maintain a good relationship.
The Don sagely said there was no easy way to say no, but recommended phrasing the no in such a way that it seemed to be a “yes.”
This is excellent advice but must be tempered with the understanding that the Don could also have “difficult, frustrating and aggravating employees” killed, giving him an added layer of authority not available to management in most office settings.
Even emulating some of the Don’s more subtle measures, perhaps placing a severed horse’s head in the cubicle of an employee whose behavior has become troubling, would probably be deemed inappropriate in certain left-leaning, liberal circles.
Therefore, it’s important to establish your authority in other ways to quell the tempestuous seas that can be embodied in the employee gone bad.
One way to establish your ascendancy is to be taller than your employees. This is not always possible, of course, particularly if you’re an NBA coach or a former jockey. Still, if it’s at all possible, strive to be taller than those who work, pardon the pun, under you.
Another is to speak in an authoritative tone. Think James Earl Jones’ Darth Vader voice. This may be more difficult for female employers to master, but no one said this was going to be easy.
A third is the abundant use of hypnotic suggestion. Not only can this technique be useful in taking control of an employee deemed to be difficult, but can also do much to liven up company parties and outings.
Fourth, avoid confrontation. This may mean hiding in the restroom or under your car, but this tactic can be of tremendous utility in avoiding the kind of angry scenes that could lead to you weeping like a small child and losing all the respect you built up with your Darth Vader voice.
Fifth, keep your cool. If an employee’s antics cause you to leap upon your desk in a screaming rage, kicking your phone, computer, monitor and various pieces of correspondence around the room while thrashing about like a hooked marlin the specifics of your dissatisfaction might be lost.
And finally, remember - employees are often similar to regular people and can be treated as such in many instances.
Just approach them carefully when they’re feeding.
Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Raynham, Mass., office, and can be reached at email@example.com.