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Managing Difficult Emplyees

eccentric employeesI would be interested in your thoughts on how you deal with a back-office employee who doesn't fit with the company norms. This employee is not a poor performer, in fact, in terms of production he is a top performer. He joined the company during a time of crisis, when schedules were crazy, and put in a tremendous effort without complaint. Now that the situation is under control, hours are more back to normal, but with occasional flare-ups. He is habitually late and usually not in the minimum business casual dress outlined in the HR Manual. But at the same time his work is always excellent, he will help anyone who needs it, and if there is a rush project, he will put in whatever hours are necessary to get the job done right and on time. At the same time, employees in other departments are starting to complain to their supervisors about his "flexible" start time and dress. How would you proceed?

Answers

michael j. gasiewicz
Title: CONTROLLER
Company: ZENGER BONCRAFT, INC.
(CONTROLLER, ZENGER BONCRAFT, INC.) |

Randy, based on experience my first suggestion is to simply arrange some private time to meet with him to talk-perhaps a long lunch. Obviously you will need to prep some topics for the discussion, but let him know why you want to have the talk so he doesn't feel blind-sided. I presume we are talking an educated, professional person so treat him that way. But be honest about the issues. Did he follow the dress code and other 'norms' when he began working, or was he always this way? Is he honestly aware of the dress code? How does his eccentricity/lateness impact these other employees? What have his periodic reviews indicated {if you use them. Especially read his comments; you may find a clue that was missed there}. There may be a reason {however odd it may seem to you} for his "eccentricity". Pose the issue of fairness and consistency, that he provides excellent work and that dress codes are in place to enhance the impression clients and others have of his workplace and co-workers. You don't want to preach, you want to talk. Ask him about how he feels about his work, job, the effect his work has on others, etc. Maybe he feels burdened by being the 'go-to' person and is less than perfectly happy, he may think he contributes more than he is being recognized for, and this is his way of getting some notice. What I think you might have to do is boost his pride and connection to your company; even though he has worked in various modes he may feel less than fully accepted? Then again, for the sake of argument, eccentric employees can make things more interesting at work, especially if they are reliable performers. This is going to be a sort of feel-as-you-go session; the talk may range into areas you aren't expecting but see where it goes. You may find the key during the ride. Good luck to you both.

Anonymous
(Senior Programmer/Analyst) |

Randy,

Although I can assure you that I am not your eccentric employee, with a pronoun change from "he" to "she", I could be. From the standpoint of the employee, I would highly resent my boss picking such nits with me. I am by far the most productive in my group (and have been told this by my end-users frequently). Howeve, being the go-to person in my department (though not the highest paid) is extremely stressful. I don't sleep well because of it and usually don't get to sleep soundly till 5am - therefore often I'm a few minutes late. But look at your employee's total hours spent, not just the clock time. Does he come in 5 minutes late but stay 30 minutes after shift to finish things up? Skip his breaks and/or lunches? If he's habitually late, perhaps a change in shift would be the better choice?

Regarding dress code, if he is a back-office employee, ask yourself if a dress code is necessary and appropriate for them? "There's no reason for it - it's just our policy" reasoning does not work on people with a brain. And ask yourself, are there other employees that are allowed to break other rules (such as one that takes excessive smoke breaks, is allowed to be less productive, etc)? He may feel used and resentful.

I'm not saying that some rules should not apply. If his lateness is truly IMPACTING your operation (beyond the complaints of his co-workers) then yes, you need to address that. But please keep in mind that you gladly and silently took his extra efforts when you were in crisis. If things are calmer now - enjoy that - but don't start whacking him over the head with picky rules. Unless, of course, you don't care if he doesn't stick around for the next crisis. After all, isn't the ultimate goal to have the best productivity in your business? Will the correct cloth of the pants of a back office employee (read: not seen by public) really change your bottom line? Just my 2 cents from the other side of the fence. I wish you luck, and would love for you to post again what ended up happening with your employee.

Anonymous
(Proprieter) |

Our business is primarily engineering, but when we need support of any kind we would always prefer to use a company that retains good, productive employees, rather than "conformant" ones, as we know which will deliver the goods to us, rather than just giving the appearance of so doing.

So why don't you in indeed invite this guy out for a casual chat. Start by praising his achievements & capabilities. Tell him he is a valued employee, and ASK HIM what he needs to enable him to keep up, or improve, this performance. He may come back with nothing, but he may also be aware of his "eccentricities", and ask for help with "acceptance". If not, ask him if he can help you a little more, by "humoring" his fellows a little; by occasionally being the first in the office, the (overly) best dressed, whatever he needs to prove that he could "fit in" if that was really necessary. Give the message, but don't lecture.

You also need to check, carefully, with the rest of your people, as to what the real issue is here. Are you sure that there are not other considerations in play, such as resentment at his excellent performance that shows others up, such that they would do anything to get rid of him.

Conversely, think about what you would you do if other employees came to you and said that they too could be more productive if you offered a less formal work environment for BO staff, with better work-life balance?

As the other anonymous contributor has pointed out, this sounds like a real 21st century 24/7 employee. YOU & his fellow employees need to learn how best to get the most from him, & it isn't by TELLING him to conform. That will surely only result in his departure & your return to being a company that appears to value conformance more than excellence. But if that is who you you want, then you may have to pay the price!

Anonymous
(Sr. Financial Analyst) |

Eagles don't flock; they tend to be eccentric and unusual for a reason.

A little leeway for uniqueness can free a workteam from constraints they didn't even realize existed. Why not facilitate a team discussion of team values or suggestions for enabling more flexibility for everyone? Definitely agree with other posters that the modern workplace can accommodate eccentricity, within reason.

Anonymous
(Staff Accountant) |

I agree creativity is required in the ARts and writing genre, but not so much in a business context. Parameters are needed in the work place and as I stated, manners, safety, business etiquette, dress codes are designed for a reason. Some invoke professionalism and others not to the same level of professionalism.

I think the problem is not the level of professionalism, but the outliers that never fall in place with the team spirit.

Anonymous
(Staff Accountant) |

I've worked at a company with a lot of top heavy individuals (engineers and programmers) and recall a few of the "employees" who had their own "MY" rule book. Initially, I resented the fact that I had to follow "company" rule book and not "MY" rule book, because no one ever said anything about these few.

However, it later developed into embarrassment.

When payday rolled around, I would personally issue paychecks to employees and, much to the chagrin of everyone, I'd like to think, there stood Dr. Engineer with his ripped jeans and hand out. This guy regularly wore jeans AND jeans with holes in both knees and string hanging out of both back pockets and knees. He made an exorbitant amount of money.

Another employee lacked hygiene and another one wore dirty, unpressed clothing.

The only individuals I ever saw appalled by these few eccentric individuals were outsiders. Very unfortunate for the company and owner. My feeling went from resentment to avoidance after experiencing one time too many, the shocked look of outsiders as they walked by these individuals in the halls. Many looked twice.

Corrective Measures:
HR should step in. Especially for individuals that are the direct source of $$ making for the company.

Alternative is reminding employees through the monthly or quarterly newsletter or possibly an All Company-wide email. HR should have an ongoing process in place to remind employees...especially for larger corporate offices. We do it for safety and holidays, it should be done for other simple issues like office etiquette, dress code, and acceptable behavior.

However, as a company employee I like to initiate through passing conversation what the company policy outlines as appropriate office etiquette or attire. I leverage the policy too. For example, comments like "we have a number of important clients visiting our office this week, please be sure to dress smart. The owner wants to impress them."

I always continue with positive or critical feedback, because some individuals may not be aware of their mannerism or dress habits and the reminder is usually noted.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I have seen multiple dress standards for different groups of people having nothing to do with job safety (makes sense that automotive has grease stains, but not accounting).

The questions that should be asked are:

1. Dress code make sense. Neat and clean requirements is one thing, but does everyone need a suit, a tie, dockers? Is the employer providing a uniform?
2. Hygiene standards or health standards. I am allergic to many perfumes. Can I forbid as an employer the use of perfumes (that were invented because of poor hygiene standards in the first place).
3. Is Professionalism directly related to dress? I truly don't believe so (and I'm sure I'm in a minority, but that's changing).
4. Income vs wardrobe. Why is it assumed the high dollar earner must wear the $1,000 suit? We need to temper our internal values with the external world.

An example was the Gucci handbag craze. Both women & girls was buying vinyl handbags at fine leather and gold prices (my value judgement). So those that could and those that couldn't afford these prices were looked down upon for not having these handbags.

So to go to the point of the original question, how eccentric is the individual, what is their worth to the organization and is the egocentricities in violation of your personal standards or is it related to health/welfare and a truly uniform image.

kevin unknwon
Title: unknown
Company: unknown
(unknown, unknown) |

If you want to keep this employee around then leave him be. If you attack his eccentric behaviors he will start looking for a new job. Sounds like you have an employee who cares about the company enough to sacrifice his time for the good of the organization.

Questions you need to ask yourself; is his coming in late actually effective his ability to complete his work? Is it honestly effective others outside of their emotional distress that its 'unfair'. Is he customer facing? Has an actual customer ever complained about his appearance? Does this employee add value to the company? Will making him come in on time and dress like everyone else add any value?

As far as the cry babies who sound like they just want to ruin things for this guy, how often do they step up to the plate when there is after hours work or tackle things that need expedited? Are these sales people QQing? If so, ignore them completely.

Theresa Mazoyo
Title: Country Chapter President
Company: WASAA
(Country Chapter President, WASAA) |

On one hand, this back office employee is a good performer and therefore adds value to the organization. On the other hand, his behavior is not exemplary to other employees, which could cause disciplinary challenges with other employees in future. I would therefore suggest that the employee gets counseling on the need to comply with the organization working hours and the dress code. If the employee does not comply after the counseling, then it is necessary to get rid of him, as keeping a bad egg within the organization will have negative effects on other employees.

Anonymous
(Manager of Accounting) |

I've been that very-high performing, eccentric employee who knocks it out of the park every time, and also gets to work late/takes long lunches. My perspective has been that I often work late hours at home for the company, neglecting what I need to do at home and with my family. If my family duties sometimes make me late to work, or take a long lunch running errands, it seems like quid pro quo. All in all, I work more hours than my coworkers, and produce a far better product.

Those complainers? They are the ones who only see one side of the equation. They are jealous of the perks they perceive I get, and they don't see the long hours/minor miracles that also happen.

After I got passed over for a promotion, and received a new boss who values conformity more than performance, I became the "normal" employee. I get there on time, take short lunches, and do the minimum required.

Personally, I think the company got a much better deal in the beginning.

Anonymous
(Financial Controller) |

It sounds like this issue was brought up to your attention by someone else.
This may or may not be a management issue.This kind of situation can usually be resolved by a virtuous manager.
Since it was not resolved on the management level, your problem employee may be trying to "tell" you something.
Then again if you are very happy with your management, the problem employee may have to choose between fitting with your company norms or looking for another employer.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

An observation. Most of the answers of this question are anonymous.

I haven't seen this before.

Why?

Topic Expert
J.D. Floyd
Title: Owner, CFO
Company: CFO Outsourcing Solutions, Inc.
(Owner, CFO, CFO Outsourcing Solutions, Inc.) |

Wayne,

While my response is unrelated to this post, I did notice the same thing amongst most of the posts I have seen here.

I would urge others to come out from behind the shadows and join the light.

J.D. Floyd

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Sorry Floyd. For the very reasons we've discussed on so many posts here, I cannot safely identify myself although, it has been pointed out to me that it is easy enough to do.

You see, we live in a time where we are not allowed to have an opinion other than the one approved by the corporate chief. Even if we don't defame our employer by name, just relaying an experience or offering an opinion on a personnel or management issue that runs contrary to the boss' can get one in hot water. The worst kind of hot water. The kind where the boss holds it against you but doesn't even tell you that s/he saw it and is going to retaliate.

I'm #2 in my organization and I have first hand knowledge of how much energy that the #1 position has other employees expending in scouring the news and the internet for any tidbit of dirt on this organization or any of the employees. And, I know first hand what s/he does with it if something is brought to his/her attention.

We live in interesting times. There is no such thing as privacy. And, even outside of work, we are not allowed to deviate from the company line or norms as determined by those who control our paycheck.

Young people on this forum should take that into account when they are posting pictures and comments all over social media sites. Employers actually hire tech analysts to look for such things on you when doing background checks. You never know how your words, deeds, pictures etc. are going to be used against you and, frequently without your knowledge by employers.

Anonymous
(Corporate Controller) |

Are people's experiences and observations any less valuable without a name and a picture attached to them?

In a post about accepting people's differences, it's ironic that you would call people out for being different.

Dawn Hall
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Bionix Development Corp
(Chief Financial Officer, Bionix Development Corp) |

In my opinion, you are sweating the small stuff. In the long run, does it matter that he comes in a few minutes late or is perhaps a little too casual in his dress? Performance that generates revenue is what the company's ultimate goal is, and it sounds like he is a good performer. When someone is doing a great job, they generally get a little less scrutiny than others that aren't doing as well. I have seen similar situations, and from those experiences, the people complaining are usually the ones that aren't doing so well. Personally, I would try to foster a work environment that encourages productivity, not nit-picking.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Those other employees have too much time on their hands. :-)

Robert Price
Title: CFO/Board Advisor
Company: Not Disclosed
(CFO/Board Advisor, Not Disclosed) |

First, I would burn the "Work Place Attire" section of your HR Manual. Seriously, I would burn it. Second, tell the other Managers to mind their own business. Don't let them make Their problem Your problem.

Having been in the work force since 1974 (40+ years) I have seen and lived through change. In the "old" days, we had to wear blue, gray or blue/gray pinstripe suits (you know, jackets and pants that matched), white/blue shirts, and ties. Casual Friday's were sports coat, slacks (not jeans), white/blue shirt and tie. Shoes could be black or brown, made from some type of leather, and needed to be polished. You always wore your jacket outside your individual office space. Hair above the ears. No facial hair. And women, had to where suits or dresses, and panty hose or nylons. No pant suits allowed. You were expected to be in by 8:30am and couldn't leave before 5:30pm. I'm talkin' "Old School".

Well times have changed! Today, and for sometime now, I don't care what someone wears to work or the hours they work. But, I have a few rules:

Attire:
Women: Can't dress like you work at Scores or Hooters. (Its a distraction for everyone.)
Men: No tank tops. (No one wants to see your hairy arms and back hair!) Flip-flops must be wore with socks. (Face it, your feet stink.)
All: Try your best to have clean clothes and personal hygiene. No offensive logo shirts.

Work Hours:
Core hours: Need to be in the office or available, both online and telepathically, between 10:00 am - 3:00 pm, lunch hour exempted)

Must attend Mandatory Meetings, regardless of start time.

If the person gets their work done; it is of high quality; they are pleasant and helpful to others, then I just don't care what they wear, and when they start. They can show up at 10:00 am, with spiked purple hair, shorts, platform shoes, and a logo t-shirt, for all I care.

Now, if their work doesn't get done, is of poor quality, and the person is, in general, disagreeable and a pain in the butt, then I engage some remedial rules to square away the situation, or help them pursue their career elsewhere.

My advice: leave it alone. This is the other managers problem, not yours

Anonymous
(Co-CEO) |

I had an employer once who asked the same questions. 25 years ago, I was the network guy for a telemarketing firm. It was a 150 node mainframe that ran surveys via phone, and tracked the answers. We also were the reason Teleconnect (which became MCI) was successful.

So, anyway, when I joined the IT team, I was given 15 minutes of training, and the rest was OTJ. The pay was $8.00/hr at a time when the standard for IT was $60/hr.

I couldn't afford new clothes. My pay barely covered my rent, and one meal per day., and gas to get to work. Any extra pay went to saving for repairs to my motorcycle, or saving to buy a car, because winters are rough in the northern Midwest.

I got criticized for my clothes, criticized for every little thing. But, I loved my job. I loved being around computers.

All of the other IT hated the place. One by one, they quit, but not suddenly. Instead, they would take a sick day, then vacation, and finally leave when they had a new job.

I expected my boss to appreciate my faithfulness, and the sacrifice I made when the company asked me to fill in for the "sick guy" by pulling a double shift. I even didn't let it bother me when they did not give me the $1500 back pay they owed for the extra hours. I even took it when I got wrote up for being found sleeping at my computer...after pulling a 24 hour shift when two people called in sick, and the task needed to be done else the call center would be down for two days.

On a recent contract, I was taken aside by the supervisor and asked why I came in at 9am when everyone else came in at 8am. I pushed back the urge to punch him in the face, and tell him to F OFF, but instead explained that I am helping my sick brother who needs my help in the morning.

I said all that to say this, you may not know why a person dresses sloppily, or is late. Before passing judgment, find out about the guy. There may be justification for his actions.

But, think about it. Did you hire the guy because he was a male model, or because you felt he could get the job done? Of course, it was to get the job done. From your description, I would say he is getting the job done, and going overboard.

In today's workforce, where the cashier at the McDonalds has a college degree but cannot figure out that when you gave him $5.15 on a charge for $4.85, that you expect a quarter back, chances are, you are not going to find the level of production you are getting from this guy.

With the youth that I have worked with, I found the common cause of failures in the business world is because they grew up without a dad.

Dad's teach guys how to dress for the job. They teach boys how to make a good impression by being on time.

Since your employee hasn't grasped those two skills, you can go one of three ways. Personally mentor him, excuse his shortcomings because he is a producer (and if anyone says anything, just tell them that if they were as productive as him, they could relax the standards as well), or can the guy.

Oh. One more thing. It is possible the guy came from a work environment that is way more relaxed.

One contract I interviewed for, the guy interviewing me was in jeans and a dress shirt. I was in a three-piece suit and tie. Due to my Dale Carnegie training, I knew to loosen my tie, saying it was hot in the office. On the second interview, I showed up in jeans and a dress shirt, and got hired.

If you interview the guy and he says he cannot afford the clothes you expect, give him a bonus for doing such a great job and tell him to use the bonus on new clothes. Or, take him shopping if you think he will spend it on something else...like paying for his mom's kidney transplant.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

As I have shared often in this forum, companies that offer flexibility in work policies and value workers who cause friction are often market leaders. You may also consider allowing this person a remote working engagement and asking others what would make them as productive as this person. He enjoys his attire, so what! Yes, if you are talking about overly revealing cloths or those with offensive messaging you need to draw a line, otherwise, figure it out, it is worth figuring it out.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

First of all, I would turn a deaf ear to complaints from the other departments if you are satisfied with this individual's contribution. This assumes, of course, that the transgressions do not create some sort of physical harm or result in theft, etc. I would let the individual know how others perceive his behavior. A little peer pressure never hurts if you are trying to guide someone down a certain path. But I think you need to decide what it is in the best interest of all stakeholders of the company and proceed accordingly. This is what managers get paid to do. Some of this will be the consequence of creating a diverse work environment which has proven to be valuable if not a necessity.

Anonymous
(Tax/Business Consultant) |

In my opinion...
1. When the person was first hired, did anyone at your firm discuss with that employee the office hours or dress code?
- If not, then it's your company's problem, not that person.
2. Burn that dress code policy in the firm's manual.
3. Offer Flex time! Doesn't appear your that flexible!
- If someone asks "Can I come in at 10a, can I make up the time later?"
- The answer: "Sure you can"!
- So that employee either works late that day or makes up for it some other day.

Disregard what others have said that it's not Your problem because it IS Your problem as it's Your company! At least take Responsibility for how it's run! Many company owners actually Do care on how the company is ran.

According to your own testimony, that person works hard so why the grief?
Honestly, what's "wrong" with a person being a little eccentric?
Working hard, staying late, being there for others yet coming in late and wearing non-business clothing makes a person "eccentric"?

I've seen and experienced too many companies treat their "go to people" unkindly when they're productive workers, many of whom eventually leave those companies.

Sounds like you and your company have an "old fashion", Biased view of people! The issues then is not that employee whom you admitted is very productive but of your company and its "values/beliefs".

If it's really an issue to you, then you may want to have a friendly meeting with the person, gender is irrelevant, and kindly discuss the matters, which should have taken place earlier when that person started. Here, you see the management's lack of responsibility in this matter for not doing so!

Many people, including self and some commenters, have put in long hours for our current/former companies, because we believed in doing our jobs. We've put in long hours Beyond what the company stated. Yet... we've nothing in return except Grief and the Lack of acknowledge from management of our work.
* Notice that many people don't work for those companies anymore! *
* Never burn out your "go to people"!

- When an employee is doing a "great" job, then Encourage it!
- When you hire something to HELP you, then show it!
- When you hire something to "... help the company be brought up to the next level!", then prove it!
- When you hire someone because you believe in "change" and want them to "help" the company in whatever "wants/needs" to move forward and improve and grow, then show it!
- Don't play the "blame game"! Instead of blaming others, take responsibility, by management, and correct many issues, which I've seen and experienced, are actually caused BY management!

TOO many times have I seen and experienced lots of BS and hypocrisy from management of different companies that it's pathetic!

If you have issues with getting work done and the current staffers are basically overworked, then it's the Company at fault for not hiring to alleviate that workload problem!

Maybe the issue are the ones making the assertions against that particular employee! Are the other people productive?

Many Old Fashioned views should be Buried but it's SO difficult for many people esp. firms with (Out)dated policies and procedures and manners.

Basically, "Give the employee the work (that's why you hired them!) and let them do it!"

- DON't be ANAL, DON'T nit-pick and DON'T Micromanage... all of which SO many companies and management personnel tend to do.

Companies today wonder why there's NO such thing as employee loyalty anymore. If companies treated their employees like Valued assets instead of Disposable assets, work life and productivity would be so much better!

Finally....

Many of us are posting Anonymously... why?
Repercussions!
Why are you even asking? You Know why!

In society, it's best Not to tattle esp. on past employers Even If the allegations of the former employees are true! Then again, it's their word against yours, who don't know anything about their work experiences so why the judgment call??

In society, it's also about Conformity. People are not "allowed" to make voice their personal experiences or opinions in fear of the "politically correctness" that has gripped today's society!

Why do you think that there are Whistleblower laws?
When people "do the right thing", they are ostracized by society, by their friends and strangers. Everyone looks out only for themselves which is pretty sad!

Unfortunately, in dealing with businesses, most of them ONLY know about 1 thing... the bottom line!

Those that are seeking the identity of posters should look in the mirror!
There's a Thing that most people can NOT control and it's called the EGO!

James Scott
Title: Consulting CFO
Company: Early Growth Financial Services
LinkedIn Profile
(Consulting CFO, Early Growth Financial Services) |

The days of knowledge workers being expected to be on a time clock are over. Especially for internal support roles. Unless you need a uniform for customer service reasons, any well groomed (clean) outfit is OK to work in including clean t shirts. Most MR generation members realize, and the best insist, on this non conformity. The trade off for working mad hours when needed is flexible time and work life balance on the other end. I suggest you change the culture in your company, before it becomes extinct.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Consulting CFO and Business Operations A..
Company: Growth Accelerator
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor, Growth Accelerator) |

Starting with a "tale of two Spectrum Guys", ending with a moral.
Both stellar performers, refused to dress "office appropriately", roll in when they feel like it, etc. They were focused on the being productive, and were annoyed by "fitting in" requests.
One was protected like a hoard of gold, the other was fired...
...because of disruptive and impactful outcomes.
One was primarily customer facing; he'd dress up for his own meetings, but not when a partner had a meeting, so the customer would see "Pigpen" in the office. Being a meetings-driven organization, there was a lot of need to know when people would be around. Failure to be in at expected times was disruptive to the productivity of others.
The other was a performer on a team. Deadline, not meeting, driven. Customers would see the results of the work, but didn't meet directly with him.

Moral of the story...guidelines are great for a lot of reasons. However people aren't robots, and many of them (especially, in my experience, people who might be considered to be "on the spectrum") may suffer emotionally and productively from being stuffed into a square hole.

If people are complaining that the employee's behavior is impacting their *performance*, that is a valid concern.
If people are complaining that they need to show up on time, and he doesn't...that is an impact on them as well, however it might not be best remedied by changing the offender's behavior. It may be better remedied by better managing people's understanding and appreciation.
The guy in the story who was protected; that was pretty literal. Complaints and comments were countered with very kind and cordial "you don't get it; he is special, he is staying, let him do his work." Making slight workplace adjustments so that he sat away from the "wear a tie, a skirt, look sharp, 9-5" focused people were part of the strategy for laying out the floor plan, so as not to rub anyone the wrong way. In smaller organizations, a more direct strategy might apply.

Douglas Preston
Title: Generalist
Company: Self
(Generalist, Self) |

I want to voice a dissenting opinion.

Employees have to be treated fairly. (That does not mean the same; there are legitimate differences between hourly and salaried employees.) Company policies need to be applied consistently.

Regarding dress code and arriving for work at the scheduled time and any other disregard of explicit policies, if one employee is allowed to disregard policies while others are not, the company has a problem. The first is that it breeds ill will among employees, which breeds fast and cancels out good manager-employee relations. Your employees are already asking why certain employees are not accountable but the rest of us are. What will you tell them? Because he’s a really hard worked and you all are just mediocre?

The second problem is when one of your truly mediocre employees needs to go. That employee has grounds for unlawful termination: The employer allows “favorite/certain” employees to do whatever they want.

I am not unsympathetic to your situation, however. I have been both the employee who worked long hours and saw my company through tremendous hardship and have been the employee who had to obey all the policies while colleagues at the same level and in similar positions were allowed to arrive late, leave early (even 45 or 60 minutes early), and dress with disregard for explicit dress policies.

I would like to offer a suggestion. You will have the conversation with the employee, and you will acknowledge the consistently high quality of the employee’s work. If you suspect the employee will start looking elsewhere (which is his right), offer a raise.

Anonymous
(Finance Manager) |

If you're asking him to conform to the rules like all the average-performing employees AND you still want him to be an above-average performer, I would phrase the request to conform as a favor to you (because really this is about getting people to stop complaining to you), and offer him a raise. After all, if he is going above and beyond everyone else, he deserves to be paid more than everyone else.

Anonymous
(Board Advisor and Investor) |

I work in Silicon Valley. So "norm" for this place would probably be unacceptable at most companies. If an employee, acted, dressed like they do at most companies, that person would probably be ostracized by the employee population. A good example is someone mentioned a new hire who wore a suit on his first day to work; and then "dressed down" to sport coat and slacks; he was always formal in addressing people, etc. People started giving him nicknames like "IBM circa1980" and starting excluding him from key decisions. I'm a board advisor, exec and consultant to dozens of companies from 5 person start ups to 100 person tech companies. We've seen a wide range of personalities, behaviors, etc. Bottom line is the employees need to work as a team, respect each other, and drive results, innovation, breakthrough activities whether they are in engineering, sales, accounting or the office manager. I actually look for new employees who are quirky, not conformist. Some of those hires were my best performers---- they require more maintenance, but if I get 300-500% more value, I'll put in the management effort. I'd never work at a large company again with their HR policies, dress codes and focus on politics rather than performance.

Anonymous
(Chief Executive Officer) |

Old thread but near and dear to my heart. Tread carefully if this employee is a member of a protected group. Changed behavior (e.g. Sudden enforcement of HR policies when performance has been excellent) towards the employee can be construed as a discriminatory practice. It's worth the 15 minute phone call to an employment attorney to make sure it's done correctly.

Anonymous
(Legal & Due Diligence Assistant - Corporate Finance) |

I have also been the "eccentric" one - who has outperformed my counterparts. I've come in early, worked through all my breaks, stayed late - and stayed extra late to clean the offices after work at one company when the contract cleaners didn't show up for a couple of month (and believe me - cleaning was NOT my job) as well as run the whole of the back office alone (because of severe staff shortages, so was doing the work of 6). I did all this at the expense of family life, but my job/career was important to me and I took it all very seriously. I wish I hadn't bothered. Others within the organisation took umbrage when they realised that my pay and bonuses were far outstripping theirs (not that I told them, so god knows how they found out), but they never stopped to think that I had been there for a long while, I'd paid my dues, been the go to person for just about everything within the back office and was highly thought of and trusted by the Directors because I'd rolled my sleeves up and done what needed to be done in times of company crisis. I would never do this for any company again (except the one for whom I now work), as it has been the same within the last 2 companies I've worked for where I've been made "redundant" because of the behind closed doors untrue tittle tattle (because I made coworkers look bad just by doing my job and doing it better than they were doing theirs). I now work for a brilliant company who actually embrace people's differences. But it goes to show how clever the directors are, because they actively encourage it - mainly because they KNOW that all of us will outperform and outstrip any "conformist" employees. No one takes advantage that I've seen and we all work very damn hard, whether from the office or at home.

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