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Talk Is Cheap

You know who they are - the workers who talk a good game but don't deliver. They drain resources, lower morale, and in some cases are outright dangerous. Do you work with a Scammer, a Chronic Ache, or a Gadfly? Read on.

In any given factory or shop on any given day, there is a fantastic dynamic at work that spells success or failure. If the business model is sound and management is not contributing to the failure of the business then attention should be paid to the employees.

We have all worked with someone who is a drain on the company. Indeed, we often wondered how they ever were hired, and worse, why they were still around. 

We all know these types, they are:    
1) The Royal Highness - This employee blueblood believes that some, if not all, of the tasks required to do the job are beneath him. In certain instances, he will try to pawn them off on an unsuspecting Doofus and then provide total blame when things go bad. Often he has a very high opinion of himself, yet it is all smoke with nothing burning. Most have little talent; in rare cases, he combines some Scammer techniques and works his way into a management role. Most everyone that has ever worked with the Royal Highness realizes what he is, and if a management role is ever assumed it is short lived.

2) The Scammer - These rascals are shrewd and cunning, and can often outperform everyone else in the department if focused on the job at hand. Unfortunately, they spend far too much time and energy scheming and defrauding the business or planning ways to manipulate another employee into doing something for their own self-interests. They gain satisfaction in “getting over” on the company. They are very competitive and view management and upper-management as adversaries; anytime they get something by management they feel they have won.  When directed properly and compensated appropriately, these employees can be a star.  Often they do what they do for the challenge and excitement and keep doing it for the self-perceived rewards. 

3) The Gadfly - This insect is so deeply absorbed in the office politics, business rumors (about the competition or their own company), or the various assignments that other employees are working on that they lose focus on what their job is supposed to be. The Gadfly has talent and passion, but it is misdirected. Often these employees are not challenged enough.  With aggressive management styles and increased workload, the Gadfly can succeed. Caution: the Gadfly might be a Chronic Ache in disguise. It is difficult to discern and sometimes a metamorphosis occurs.  Once this change occurs, it becomes a manager's nightmare - they combine rumor, myth, and talent to become an amazing burden.  

4) Doofus - This employee is simply the employee that just can’t think. They often hurt themselves or break equipment, cannot remember various tasks, and require almost constant supervision. It is unclear how this employee got to the position they are in, because if they were interviewing for their job they wouldn’t stand a chance. Often these employees are friendly and would do anything you ask.  They will work long hours and rarely complain. The problem is most of their work could have been done in a fraction of the time.  They are a drain on the company and a burden on the team and their boss.  Many times, it is believed the Doofus either is a substance abuser or has legitimate mental or psychological problems - nobody could be like that without a good explanation. 

5) The Chronic Ache - This pain produces more lost time and contributes to the overall downfall of the group or department more than any other employee. The Chronic Ache will complain about everything and make it very difficult for other employees to remain positive. They believe the company owes them and has taken advantage of them.  There is a recognizable grey mist of discontent that follows them wherever they go, and they can suck the life out of anyone with the bad fortune of asking them about their day. This employee is typically shuffled around to various departments.  A boss may take them on as a test of their management metal, or they may inherit them because they were blindsided or railroaded into taking the Chronic Ache.

It can be difficult on management to deal with these various types.  Often, employees exhibit only nuances of these characteristics and in some cases they can work their way through them. 

"I see employee failures every day, little failures hopefully,” said Chris Aldrich, Vice President of Mechanical Drive Components Inc. “It is a necessary part of the learning process. I think employees fail on a grander scale because of inexperience. Life is a series of failures and reactions to failures. It's what you gain from failure that makes you a real person. Often a company has to put forth the right training, as well, rather then give lip service."

Sometimes the employee also is actually over-employed. Their skills or experience do not match job description - a bad fit. They could also be under-employed, bored, burned out, or depressed. They may also have the martyr syndrome, thinking they work harder and longer than everyone else does - but still cannot get their job done.

Alternatively, they have mastered the passive aggressive behavior. "Oh, nobody told me about that..."  There are even those who are perfectionists, who can never complete anything because it’s never quite good enough. They are afraid of failure. 

Then there are the procrastinators.  These employees wait until the last minute to start projects.  Fortunately, procrastinators usually seem to always pull it out in the end.

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Michael Holloway is Director of Technical Development and Reliability for NCH Corp, Irving, Texas. He has more than 25 years experience in manufacturing facilities as well as research, product development, quality, maintenance training and technical marketing. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Texas department of Engineering, and has been trained in the Master Black Belt principles of Designing for Six Sigma.

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