Do You Have High-Maintenance Employees?

Joe Weinlick
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If you've been managing employees for a while, it's pretty likely you've experienced one or two, or even more, high-maintenance employees. If you're not sure how to identify these employees, there's a few signs to clue you into their needy behavior. High-maintenance employees often ask lots of questions, seek constant approval or praise, and have a difficult time dealing with change or feedback they consider to be negative. So how do you address these issues?

High-maintenance employees are usually described as such because of their behaviors. The good thing is behavior can be modified. A successful manager guides his employees and helps them participate in activities and display behaviors that will benefit both the company and the employees. Part of this guidance is looking more deeply at why employees might act a certain way. George Brough, vice president of organizational development at Caliper, an employee assessment and talent development solutions company, notes that high-maintenance employees act the way they do because some need is not being met. It could be they aren't being challenged enough at work, or they may not be satisfied with the workplace environment. It could be they aren't happy with their salary or benefits package, or they don't feel their employer recognizes their dedication to the company. The need could be personal or professional, and it being unfulfilled is the reason behind the high-maintenance behavior.

To help curb the neediness of high-maintenance employees, managers should try to eliminate the disconnect between them and their employees. They can do this by asking themselves questions about the workplace, the employee, and the employee's job duties. Is the environment collaborative? How does the employee get along with his colleagues? Is the employee fulfilling his job duties satisfactorily? What types of questions is he asking? Does the company have an employee recognition program? Can the employee be autonomous? Does he seem receptive to new challenges or is a lack of confidence affecting his self-efficacy? Talking to employees about what motivates or empowers them also gives some insight into employee behavior.

If you discover you have several high-maintenance employees, don't label them as such or call them needy. Those are negative connotations that might result in low morale or productivity, or even more negative employee behavior. Every employee is different, and you want to address each situation individually. What might work for one employee might not work for another because their needs are different. You may find that giving your high-maintenance employees a few minutes of undivided attention every week is enough to satisfy them. It may also engender more positive feelings in the workplace because other employees aren't being disrupted by the needy behavior.

High-maintenance employees may be some of your best workers, so it's important that you find a way to meet their needs. A few tweaks to your management style might be all that is needed to change the workplace culture and create an environment that is satisfactory for all.

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