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Old 05.05.2011, 22:29
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how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

Dear all,
Advice needed...I am a manager (newbie) of a few people of different nationalities - most of them get what they need to do and how to do it...except for the swiss guy..he is 28 and complains that he has too much work, but when I look at what he has..its not a lot, or very complex or difficult.. he has even told the big boss he was too busy to do something for him...the big boss then rang me up and told me to do something. ie: sack him...I have tried the approach of telling him to pull his finger out and to be proactive but then he tells me how he has really progressed and that he thinks he is doing a great job...and looks at me with these reproachful eyes....

He is a really nice decent guy and I want him to change but like my ex-husband I fear he never will so any advice before we get to the verbal warning is much appreciated....
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Old 05.05.2011, 22:32
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

Have you considered doing a productivity study with him? You could tell him that he is behind others, and that his work load is not actually that great, so you want to help him by doing a time analysis with him.

Or giving him a time management course - he might realise that actually he can manage his workload better.

Although I still think you should tell him that he needs to take this help or he'll be getting a letter from you. I believe that you can give a verbal warning before a written letter (but if you do, you need to give him clear areas and metrics that he can measure performance against).

EDIT: Hang on. You're in Basel... you're not my boss are you?

EDIT II: Phew, you mentioned he's Swiss... that's me off the hook...
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Old 05.05.2011, 22:46
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So.....still mad at your ex.husband.....huh?
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Old 05.05.2011, 22:47
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

There are some big cultural differences at work here.

Firstly, whereas in British culture (one I know about), we would never complain that we had too much work. This would be tantamount to admitting that we were out of our depth and couldn't cut it. Instead we play it down with understatements like "mustn't grumble" and "not so bad".

The Swiss on the other hand are out to show how busy they are and will talk about how stressed they are and how hard they work and will resist adding to their already massive work load to show how busy they are.

Add to this he is from a conservative male-dominated society and it could be that have a female boss just doesn't sit right for him.

I would lay it on he line and tell him straight he has to straighten up or ship out. Get him to prove he can really do it...
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Old 05.05.2011, 22:53
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

I agree with Carlos.

Maybe give him another friendly talk and ask him how he manages his day, discuss how he can become more efficient. Then maybe you have to explain that you are under pressure to give him a verbal warning.

Before you give him the warning you should have a word with his personnel officer to check if there is anything you don't know about, and maybe discuss the substance of the warning.

And don't forget, nice guys often come last! Maybe he will take the hint and leave soon?
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Old 05.05.2011, 23:05
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

How long has the employee worked for the company? Has he passed a probationary period and, if so, what is the company review process, ie, is it annual or biannual?

As you are new to the role, it may be judicious, (assuming this he not due for a formal review), to have an informal chat with him in which you ask him how he feels he is coping in his role. You could ask him if he thinks that he uses his time effectively, and suggest that he does seem to struggle more than his colleagues in certain respects.

As stated above, you could then suggest ways in which to improve his time-management skills and ask him for his own input too. You could then schedule a review of the situation in three months to see if he feels more on top of his role, and similarly by that time you will be able to gauge if he has stepped up to the mark.

However, given that the big boss has him in his sights you would be doing him a huge favour by stepping in now.
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Old 05.05.2011, 23:06
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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There are some big cultural differences at work here.

Firstly, whereas in British culture (one I know about), we would never complain that we had too much work. This would be tantamount to admitting that we were out of our depth and couldn't cut it. Instead we play it down with understatements like "mustn't grumble" and "not so bad".

The Swiss on the other hand are out to show how busy they are and will talk about how stressed they are and how hard they work and will resist adding to their already massive work load to show how busy they are.

Add to this he is from a conservative male-dominated society and it could be that have a female boss just doesn't sit right for him.

I would lay it on he line and tell him straight he has to straighten up or ship out. Get him to prove he can really do it...
All good points, but if you tackle it this way then I would put money on him showing up with a medical certificate for six weeks worth of "take it easy time", also known as "Burn Out".

Do you have a HR department? If so, then ask them for advice. Otherwise you might inadvertently cause a problem for yourself.
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Old 05.05.2011, 23:29
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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So.....still mad at your ex.husband.....huh?
The quote above is making a very valid point.
There may be something to sort out on your side before you can approach the issue impartially and correctly.

Neither nationality or a similarity to another person should be part of the equation. You've got to be totally neutral imho.

Hope it works out, the fact that you consider him kindly is a positive point. If he's smart he'll put his pride aside and consider your solicitude as an opportunity to improve.
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Old 05.05.2011, 23:40
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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Do you have a HR department? If so, then ask them for advice. Otherwise you might inadvertently cause a problem for yourself.
perhaps the boss just doesn't understand what the employee is doing. How old are you? Have you much previous management experience?
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Old 06.05.2011, 00:16
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

Personally I don't think it's anything to do with being Swiss or not Swiss - it's a character thing and I've met people like that from all over the world in fact I used to work with a Brit who I could describe exactly like that.

I'd personally lay it on the line pretty much like you've said it here (different words maybe, but same story). Be specific about what you expect him to do if he's going to keep his job - tell him what others are doing and show examples of how he's not doing it. If you've already done that then frankly I'd get rid of him. These kind of people not only create headaches for managers but they annoy everyone else because everyone sees the guy not doing as much as they are, yet still showing up and getting paid, and then they think "heck, why am I working this hard, I could slack off like him and they wouldn't fire me". Of course people can change, so I would give him a chance first, but if you've already done that then, well, where I work there wouldn't be many more chances.

By the way, the guy I mentioned earlier - he got fired.
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Old 06.05.2011, 00:17
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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perhaps the boss just doesn't understand what the employee is doing. How old are you? Have you much previous management experience?
Yes, I've heard that excuse plenty of times too, and yes I have many years management experience.
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Old 06.05.2011, 09:08
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

Thanks for all your input...really helps...I will talk to HR and then tackle him again this afternoon....

Just to clarify.....comment about the ex-husband was not about being mad its about the fact that people often don't change no matter what type of tactic or conversation you have with them...hence the ex.....
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Old 06.05.2011, 09:26
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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Thanks for all your input...really helps...I will talk to HR and then tackle him again this afternoon....
Hmmm. I've always felt that dealing with such touchy issues is best not left to afternoons or Fridays.

I think it can actually weaken your position as a manager, as you are leaving it late (in the day/week) then running home. I realise that this may not be the case, however, "perception is reality" as the old saying goes and with a "stubborn employee" he may use this to support his view that he's not the one with the problem.

Rather tackle head-on on Monday morning - or if you prefer just before lunch. If the employee then needs to take some time to think about it they can then take some of their own time off.

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Just to clarify.....comment about the ex-husband was not about being mad its about the fact that people often don't change no matter what type of tactic or conversation you have with them...hence the ex.....
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Old 06.05.2011, 09:46
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

Listen to your big boss.
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Old 06.05.2011, 09:48
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

exactly. sack him. he's gonna whine on and on and nothing will ever do for him to be satisfied. only trouble. forever.

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Dear all,
Advice needed...I am a manager (newbie) of a few people of different nationalities - most of them get what they need to do and how to do it...except for the swiss guy..he is 28 and complains that he has too much work, but when I look at what he has..its not a lot, or very complex or difficult.. he has even told the big boss he was too busy to do something for him...the big boss then rang me up and told me to do something. ie: sack him...I have tried the approach of telling him to pull his finger out and to be proactive but then he tells me how he has really progressed and that he thinks he is doing a great job...and looks at me with these reproachful eyes....

He is a really nice decent guy and I want him to change but like my ex-husband I fear he never will so any advice before we get to the verbal warning is much appreciated....
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Old 06.05.2011, 10:31
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

You could try the traditional approach of making his life hell, so prompting him to resign.

But that can be quite dangerous, especially if he's wise to those tactics. You should definitely talk to HR. While it's not as tricky as in the UK, for example, if you do make mistakes in the process (of weeding him out, or getting him to improve), it could cost your employer money... and you your career.

My initial approach would be to try to turn him into a success. That requires cooperation from him, so he needs to know the seriousness of his position. If he can be turned around, that will make him a good member of staff to you, and will also prove your people skills.
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Old 06.05.2011, 10:35
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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Listen to your big boss.
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exactly. sack him. he's gonna whine on and on and nothing will ever do for him to be satisfied. only trouble. forever.
In the end this is probably the best advice. Though if he's young, he may still be malleable and you might whip him into shape. Is it worth your time though, when there are probably almost countless others who could fill his shoes and do twice the output? Bidness is bidness.
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Old 06.05.2011, 10:41
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

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Listen to your big boss.
+1

sack him now and spread the meagre amount of work he does amoung the remaining staff.

he can learn to shape up at his new job.
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Old 06.05.2011, 10:42
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

what is bidness?
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Old 06.05.2011, 10:46
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Re: how to handle a stubborn swiss employee

I agree with Wattsli that its not a question of culture or nationality. Its the ego. I had someone in my team with the exact same problem - whinging that she has alot of work, looks through rose tinted glasses about her performance and is resistant to feedback and not a team player.

It was only when I sat down with her and showed her a comparison of her productivity versus the rest of the team that the message: "you are not pulling your weight, the team requires people to perform at a certain level. Shape up or ship out" sunk in. The message was further reinforced with a mini-review with certain KPIs for her to meet in within the next 3 months. Was her choice on whether to throw in the towel or rise to the occasion. You'd be surprise how much faster some peopel move when a fire is lighted under their arses - and how dispensible they can be.
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