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Difficult employee - need advice

(16 Posts)
libertyonhertravels Fri 31-Jul-20 13:23:29

I am managing a really difficult person. It's in a large public sector organisation. This person is regarded by colleagues as helpful and good at their job but lots of people in senior management are genuinely scared of her as she has pursued multiple cases against the organisation and has won as she creates chaos and is quite manipulative, developing relationships and then using confidences against people. For example, she will highlight a safety issue and insist it needs to be investigated, then when an investigation is launched she will challenge the terms of reference, then agree changes to these, then will go along with the investigation and then will claim the investigation is a form of bullying. She was moved into my area after repeated attempts to fire her failed. She is now causing disruption in my area with previously well functioning teams now saying the organisation doesn't care about them and lots of complaints and rows. I've never seen anything quite like it. I'd appreciate thoughts on what type of personality this is and how I might deal with her. I have no chance of sacking her, my CE is terrified of her.

She's very clever and charismatic - if she channelled her energy differently she could probably be CE herself but seems to revel in creating chaos. I dont expect to be able to 'fix' her but I need strategies to help myself and others cope.

OP’s posts: |
labyrinthloafer Fri 31-Jul-20 22:27:56

Oh gosh what an absolute nightmare! I have absolutely no idea as that is out of my range of experience as a manager.

O e thing I do think is to get it documented how it is for you, so nothing can come back on you later.

Can you transfer to another team - not a joke suggestion?

StCharlotte Fri 31-Jul-20 23:12:15

Presumably as a large public sector organisation you have formal one-to-ones, supervision, appraisals etc.

Can you bring it up in the next one with watertight evidence of her disruptive behaviour etc. under "attitude" (or whatever your equivalent is)?

dotdashdashdash Fri 31-Jul-20 23:15:11

Not the CQC is it? I think I know her. Honestly, she's a twat. If not, I feel really sorry for you, I know someone like her and it's really difficult.

MutteringDarkly Fri 31-Jul-20 23:24:28

I think I'd focus my energy on the "previously well functioning teams" getting them back into balance - find out specifically what their issues are, properly listen to them, ask them for their suggestions about turning things around...but be very clear that ALL voices are to be heard (I realise you can't exclude her from this process if she's inside one of the teams, but get an impartial facilitator, set clear ground rules for behaviour like no interrupting, and if necessary give the problem person the job of scribing or something so they are too busy to be able to dominate the meeting).

You say her colleagues think she is helpful and good at her job. Yet she clearly has the mental capacity to cause havoc at the same time, and a lot of determination to see long-winded things through. Is there a way to harness some of that / deflect it into something else? Could she have a particularly thorny project to work on that she might enjoy the challenge (I don't mean dumb something awful on her, I mean use her tenaciousness and her need for justice, to benefit you instead of work against you)? Could you see if she would be up for part-time study, as it sounds like she has the headspace for a new challenge? Ideally you want a way for all her chaos-energy to be directed somewhere else, so you get to keep the bits of her that are good at her job.

MutteringDarkly Fri 31-Jul-20 23:25:00

"Dump" not dumb. Sigh.

clearedfortakeoff Fri 31-Jul-20 23:36:38

These types of employee are the worst.

Document everything and look for opportunities to restructure/make her role redundant as that's the cleanest way to exit this type of person (speaking as HR)

RoseTintedAtuin Fri 31-Jul-20 23:37:26

Purely based on your description it sounds like she has psychopathic traits. These aren’t necessarily bad traits (most people have some of them to some degree) and can help people achieve great things but I can imagine they are tricky to manage in a team focused environment.
Maybe read up around it and someone has mentioned mental stimulation is helpful.

Thelnebriati Fri 31-Jul-20 23:41:00

I was going to say have you heard of the Dark Triad? You cant fix or control her, you need to get rid of her. People like that can do an immense amount of damage.

''the dark triad comprises the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. They are called "dark" because of their malevolent qualities.
People scoring high on these traits are more likely to commit crimes, cause social distress and create severe problems for an organization.''
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad

Evalina Fri 31-Jul-20 23:44:18

Just focus on facts all the time. If she's "won" in the past then presumably she was telling the truth. Is she a whistleblower who is being discredited by the organisation? Be very focused on evidence and it will either support what she's saying or it won't. Don't jump to conclusions.

Endlessmizzle Fri 31-Jul-20 23:45:17

Oh god I managed one of these after multiple other managers refused to. My advice after spending hours weeks months trying to understand and nudge behaviour is smile, nod, grey rock and focus on reassembling the teams that are pushed awry.

It was so bad and draining and I resented my managers so much for shoving it on to me that it contributed to me not going back after mat leave. I thought that it all stemmed from her parents’ vicious divorce and her being raised by gps as a young child - when powerless, she had developed a way of sucking all attention on to her by very passive aggressive, toxic but startlingly effective means. And then she deployed exactly the same methods in the workplace because she had no others.

After I left I heard she eventually left after much havoc but no career progression. I recently heard that she has gone to work for the most ruthless and famously sociopathic person in the industry. I often wonder who is winning.

Endlessmizzle Fri 31-Jul-20 23:46:28

Thelnebriati

I was going to say have you heard of the Dark Triad? You cant fix or control her, you need to get rid of her. People like that can do an immense amount of damage.

''the dark triad comprises the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. They are called "dark" because of their malevolent qualities.
People scoring high on these traits are more likely to commit crimes, cause social distress and create severe problems for an organization.''
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad

Oh my god I’d never heard of that but sums A LOT up!

TheNestedIf Fri 31-Jul-20 23:46:42

Can you put her in charge of the thing she's complaining about?

Climbingallthetrees Fri 31-Jul-20 23:52:39

You need to take the traditional public sector approach and restructure to make her redundant. Presumably she will try and take action afterwards, but better to have her trying to disrupt from outside the organisation.

oldstripeyNEWname1 Sat 01-Aug-20 00:03:54

Yeah, I've worked alongside one of these, except she was beloved by senior management, loathed by everyone who reported to her and those who tried to manage her just gave up and moved on. She was called Jane so got nicknamed Calamity Jane is my household as she had a way of insinuating herself into every crisis. 'Rescued' it, so senior mgrs thought she was great, but did so by ruthlessly slagging off everything else team had done. Any successes, she claimed, fayre a, she denied. Lied, manipulated.

The only one way you will win is to rise above it. Document, document, document. Always link her behaviours in performance reviews/objectives etc to organisational values, vision etc.

Grey Rock on everything. For both being no judgmental on what's gone before (like pp, could be genuine whistle blowing), and because gives no quarter for emoyee to play you off. You need to preserve your own sanity/protection by playing that role/distance.

Unfortunately in my experience of large organisations, managers will pass on the problem of managing challenging employees. 🙄

libertyonhertravels Tue 04-Aug-20 10:04:09

Thanks everyone - some very useful stuff here.

@dotdashdashdash no not CQC smile

@evalina yes she often is right but normal responses dont work, people frequently have acknowledged and fixed the issues she raises but she is never satisfied with any response and drives people so nuts with accusations/ blame they eventually lose it with her!!

That 'dark triad' links looks interesting- going to read that.

I would love to restructure her but not possible in this case.

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