10 employee types that drive managers crazy

Manager driven to drink Picture courtesy of Flickr user Hardleers

COMMENTARY I've had employees I wanted to strangle. I've also had CEOs who wanted to strangle me. I don't blame them. I can be pretty annoying at times. But overall, the pluses usually outweighed the minuses so no crimes were committed and everyone lived to work another day.

That said, some employees are such royal pains in the you-know-what, such impediments to getting things done, that you really start to question why you hired them in the first place.

When one well-known high-tech CEO was fed up with one of his people, he'd picture the guy's compensation on his forehead and think, "is he worth it?" If the answer was "no," the guy was gone. Really.

Now, executives and managers can and will overlook all sorts of weird and quirky behavior as long as the job gets done. But certain types of employees can't seem to stop themselves from creating more problems than they solve. For them, the dollar amount on their foreheads just isn't worth it.

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I don't generally like stereotypes but I'm going to make an exception for these 10 behavioral types that drive bosses nuts because, well, they really do it to themselves:

I'm important. Takes himself too seriously. Anytime you need something, he has to check his schedule or who-knows-what and get back to you. Or he has all sorts of questions and concerns, every little bit of minutiae he can think of just to sound important. It's so annoying that, after a while, you just go somewhere else.

The persistent negatron. Some people are all about why things can't be done or shouldn't be done a certain way. They've always got reasons why something is wrong but never any good suggestions on how to do it differently or better. They're always trying to stir up trouble or a debate over nothing. Those people just suck the energy out of organizations.

Surprise! In preparation for an IPO due diligence meeting with all the bankers, I needed some critical revenue forecast data. I gave someone plenty of time -- two weeks -- to accomplish this important assignment. The day of the meeting, the pressure's on, and he sends me the data with a bunch of stuff missing. When I tracked him down, all he had were excuses. What a mess. I didn't fire him but I probably should have.

"Trust me." I don't know why, but when an employee I don't know well enough to actually trust says "trust me" it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. If I trust you, you don't have to say it. If I don't yet, you have to earn it. Saying it just makes me think of all the reasons why I don't or shouldn't.

Mr. Know-it-all. People who think they know it all are annoying to those of us who do. Old joke. But seriously, the most accomplished executives are always aware of how little they know; that asking questions is far more important than knowing answers. That just comes from experience. So when the "smartest guy in the room" acts like he has all the answers and we know he doesn't, he loses credibility. Not a good thing.

The brick wall. I don't know why, but some people are so stubborn, so inflexible, if they don't do things exactly a certain way -- their way -- you'd think the whole world is going to fall apart. It gets to the point where they're actually intimidating to work with, so you just give up. Maybe that's the point.

High maintenance, high anxiety. It's one thing when you're new to a job and need some handholding to get going. I'm actually a bit of a slow starter myself. But some employees stay that way. They have zero self-confidence, are full of angst, and need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it and confirm every little thing with you for fear they might actually get it wrong and be held accountable. It's sad, but it's also a real problem.

The filibusterer. It's easy to spot these people in meetings. They're the ones who always have to know why we have to do it this way or that way and why not the other way. They're really just wasting everyone's time to hear the sound of their own voice -- or so they don't have to actually do any work.

In everybody's business. Everywhere I've ever worked there's been an employee who's got to be involved in everything. Outwardly, they appear helpful and eager to assist. They want to help everybody do everything. Everything except actual work, that is. After a while you realize it's all just distraction, to feel important, or stay entertained while getting absolutely nothing done.

"It's the principle." Whenever someone says, "It's the principle" at work, I get nervous. I'm not talking about real ethical dilemmas or anything illegal. I'm talking about subjective stuff, like "I don't understand why John gets all the accolades and promotions instead of me. It wouldn't bother me, but it's the principle..." That's just code for someone who feels entitled to something they apparently didn't earn.

So, what type of coworker or employee drives you nuts?

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