The Challenging Employee



I haven’t shared this story for a couple of years, only because it is a pretty bad memory to me. But I think it bears repeating for those who are in the management field and either have encountered the employee from HE_ _  or who might need some insight on if it ever happens to them.

Many years ago, 15 to be exact, I had only two employees that worked in our medical practice and they happened to be pretty good friends.  The younger one and I had worked together for over a year before we hired the second employee and I had noticed that she did have somewhat of a temper, but attributed to her being young.

As our office got busier we needed a part-time employee and she knew that her friend needed work so I hired her.  This was probably not one of my better decisions, but I also was a very inexperienced manager.

Things seemed to go pretty well for a few months and then the two of them decided to move in together because the older one was getting a divorce and needed a place to stay.  Another red flag, but it was out of my hands.

Over the next several months there were difficulties between them regarding rent, the older ones children, the ex-husband, and other similar issues.  One day they had an argument in the office regarding past due house bills and I had to tell them that their issues were not to be brought into the office.

We definitely were on a roller coaster, good days, not so good days and really bad days when they didn’t talk to each other even when it was necessary to handle business.

They had both been given warnings, the younger one had really exceeded her limit of warnings (when I think back on this I cannot believe that I handle things so poorly).  Oh, I don’t think that I mentioned that the young one was over 6 feet tall and very athletic. She actually did arm wrestling with the doctor who is 6 ft. 4 inches, she did not win, but she did hold her own for a while (scary!).

To make a long story short, one day when it was just the younger woman and myself in the office and we were done with patients, she received a call from her roommate and coworker that their electricity had been shut off in the apartment.  She blew up, yelling on the phone and ranting around the office swinging her arms and telling her roommate off.

After she was done, and had calmed down, I told her that this was the last draw, she had exceeded her warnings.  If she blew up one more time, that she would be terminated (and I documented this).  She calmed down and said that she would not allow it to happen again because she really needed her job and so did her roommate.

Well, I guess she really did not need her job or she really did not believe me, because only two days later she got in a fight with her roommate and started yelling in the office (thank goodness no patients were there).  I stood up and very calmly (although my knees were shaking) said to her “this is it, you are fired, pack your stuff and get out of the office now.

She grabbed her belongings and then to my surprise, came over to me and got about five inches from my face and told me that I had better watch my back, that she was going to get me and I would never know when it might happen.

Oh yeah, I was scared, but I did not let her know it and responded “I am sure you will think about this a bit clearer once you leave here.” I then told her roommate to take the rest of the day off as I wanted her out of the office as well.

Once I calmed down and could think clearly the first thing I did was call the police and make a report on the threat that she made on me.  I figured that if they found me in the bushes, that I wanted them to know who to look for.  What a day, and when her roommate came back to work the next day she put in her notice because she said that if she didn’t she wouldn’t have a place to live.  I was not upset at all, in fact, I was very happy.

All-in-all everything worked out for the best and I learned some very valuable management lessons, four to be exact that I have used since then and they have served me well.

1. Have a progressive discipline policy in place that all employees have read, signed and understand fully.

2. Know your state law on dismissing employees and give the information to your employees in their office policy manual.  It is not your word it is the states.

3. Remain calm in times of turbulence, you must be in control when dealing with irate employees.  If they threaten you pick the phone up and call the police.  Report any threats to the police.

4. Have others present if you are dealing with an angry employee, do not go face-to-face with them alone.  Hold your ground and behave like the professional that you are.

Well, this is my one and only really, really, bad employee experience (one that I was personally threatened) Hindsight is 20/20 and I know that I would handle things so much differently now, and this situation would not have gotten so out of control.  This employee would have been written up and fired long before they would have had the opportunity to get nasty with me.

I love having a progressive discipline policy in place, it make things so easy and employees know the rules, guidelines and what they need to do to keep their job.

2 thoughts on “The Challenging Employee

  1. P &P are our friends! My director always says “as long as you follow policy I can back you up; but if you stray from it you are on your own”. I do not manage an office but your lessons are very applicable to my practice as a nursing instructor; thank you for the insight!

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