Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart

The Coward’s Cop Out

One of your staff is testing your authority.  They know the rules, they know they are breaking them, and you both know that they are testing you.  They are messing with your program and setting a bad example.

Here are some cowardly ways to try and address this situation:

Don't punish the group for one person's actions.
Don’t punish the group for one person’s actions.
  • Communicate with your whole team about the issue. “I have noticed that certain people in this group have not been following the rules.  This needs to stop or else…”
  • Create a new procedure or rule for everyone to make it more difficult for the person to continue their offending actions. “From now on each of you will have to log each time that X happens and document your actions in response…”

We have all seen other leaders take the actions above, actions that amount to a group punishment and a coward’s cop out of dealing with the problem employee.

Good leaders deal with the person individually, in private.  They explain to the person what exactly they are doing that is unacceptable.  They test the person’s understanding of the issue by asking open ended questions.  “What will you do the next time X happens? Why will you handle it that way?  What if you are pressed for time?”

Good leaders make sure the person fully understands the issue and has the capability to comply with the required behavior.  They are patient in their approach and fair in the application of their authority.

In the end, if the person keeps pushing the limits, good leaders sanction the individual employee, not the entire team.

…And good organizations support their good leaders in this process.