How to handle squeaky wheels and other bad actors at work

08/22/2014 1:00 AM

08/22/2014 6:00 AM

The headline caught my eye: “3 Employees You Should Fire Immediately.”

Pink slip candidates were tagged as “the drama queen” who makes everything into a big deal, “the victim” who blames everyone or everything else and “the nonconformist” who breaks the rules or is too independent.

Common sense? Not necessarily. Those workers can be the secret sauce for innovative companies. They may have ideas worth pursuing. And, by the way, drama queens can be kings, too.

One responder on suggested that “the faker” who interviews well but doesn’t deliver the goods is a better candidate for firing. Also “the leftovers” who have been around too long or aren’t top-quality workers.

To be sure, it’s not productive or fun to have time and emotion wasted by drama/victim/nonconformist/faker/leftover types. They can ruin workplace dynamics. Some absolutely need to be let go for the good of the team.

But there also may be “gold in them thar hills,” if managers know how to prospect for it. Sometimes, over-the-top displays are clues to underlying passion for the job or the mission. It’s good to get at the root of the emotion.

A truism — often ignored — is that workers closest to the customer have smart ideas about how to do or change things. Unfortunately, workplace hierarchies often keep their ideas from reaching policymakers. Frustration builds and the drama/victim/nonconformist emerges.

Giving an ear, and even a voice, to employees at all levels can go far toward mitigating unwelcome behaviors.

Managers shouldn’t have to devote undue attention to the squeaky wheels. But sometimes a little bit of well-placed oil can quiet the squeak.

And a reminder to all workers: Try not to wear any of those “time-sucker” labels. It’s hard to rip them off, no matter how good you are.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and


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