Don’t let disgruntled employees disrupt your office
A member of your staff (“Terry”) applied for a position or a promotion within your company and was not chosen. Terry is disappointed and possibly offended. Worse, the person who got the job was previously Terry’s peer or perhaps even one of Terry’s subordinates.
This left Terry feeling angry and embarrassed and perhaps suspicious of why the other person was chosen. It left Terry doubting the fairness and wisdom of the company’s decision makers. Intentionally or not, Terry chose not to accept the decision. At a minimum, Terry checks out emotionally from the workplace, distancing himself from others (including you, the CEO) and treating them as if they were part of a conspiracy to deprive Terry of a deserved position. At worst, Terry embarks on a vendetta against the winner, engaging in a campaign to undermine the successful candidate.
As the leader, you or your subordinates need to intervene — for the sake of Terry, the sake of the winning candidate and, more importantly, for your company.
Talk it over
Being full of righteous indignation, jilted candidates may wonder why it’s such a bad move to stand on principle and make “them” pay for their poor choice. Someone needs to set these employees straight that the following will likely occur:
As someone who has coached a number of managers dealing with employees like Terry, I can tell you that employees may succeed in making their rivals’ lives miserable (and sometimes chase them out of their jobs), but they will almost never achieve their original goal of getting the promotion.
Consider Jane, who is still seething over the fact that her co-worker Mark got the job she felt she deserved. Jane disrupts meetings (if she comes at all), badmouths Mark to co-workers, and whenever Mark tries to assert himself, threatens “hostile workplace” suits and other legal action. Mark is clearly tense and distracted and it’s affecting his work and life satisfaction. He is considering applying for different jobs. However, Jane will never be the beneficiary of his leaving. She is being encouraged to leave as soon as feasible and may already have acquired a reputation as a toxic person.
Ways to overcome that grudge
Your jilted employee doesn’t have to approach this situation in such a mutually destructive way. Here are some alternatives you can suggest:
Jilted employees have suffered a serious blow to their pride and sense of self-worth. They are trying to manage feelings of shame in a public setting where observers know why they are upset. Choosing wisely how they will go forward is crucial to making the best of a difficult situation. As a leader, you can influence the choices that your employees make under trying conditions.
Fred Mael, Ph.D., helps organizations and their employees work more effectively, and coaches executives and managers. Contact him at [email protected]. This article appeared in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Baltimore SmartCEO and Washington SmartCEO magazines.