There are many obstacles to effective leadership. But one I commonly encounter is the Squeaky Wheel – that one employee who, whether seeking feedback or through management issues, claims your time over and over again. The Squeaky Wheel, as the saying goes, gets the grease – and should. If you have one of these folks in your office, you need to take swift decisive action to prevent your efficiency being affected.
The Two Types:
Employees who become a Squeaky Wheel are usually one of two types. One simply needs feedback and more accountability, and the other is expressing frustration.
The first type (think your Millennial employees) craves feedback to improve, and doesn’t feel confident taking autonomous actions without your oversight. These people are usually eager to do well within the company, but may come across as needy because priorities and goals haven’t been set for them clearly.
The second, though poor performance, delivering inconsistent results, or clashing with other employees, is signalling to you that a problem needs to be addressed or expectations better communicated. The motivations behind their behaviour are a little more difficult to diagnose, but once identified, the problem is almost always solvable.
Fortunately, the same approach works regardless of what type of Squeaky Wheel you have.
Find the source of the problem. In a private setting, the employee might be willing to offer insight into what they need. Try, “I’ve noticed recently that you [describe some specific behaviors here]. Do you know why that might be?” Or, “What could be changed to avoid [problem] in the future?” Listen to their complaints, agree on a plan of action to address the issues, and set a date to meet again and evaluate their progress.
Take action. Depending on what you agreed in your first meeting, appropriate action might be providing feedback at reasonable intervals, assigning resources to which they can refer for guidance, or sticking to a strict set of deliverables or deadlines – whatever solution you are implementing, the key is consistency. Remember that you made your expectations clear in your initial conversation; you’re not overly harsh for holding to them.
Document progress. Write down the problematic behaviour you see, as well as any improvements after your initial conversation. That way, you have clear measures of progress to discuss during your next one-to-one, or, if all else fails, you have a written record to show cause for termination.
Don’t spread the squeak. Breaking bad habits is frustrating work, and you may resent that this issue is taking you away from your strategic business objectives, but it’s important not to gripe about the issue to other employees. You set the tone for professionalism – if you talk about problem employees behind their backs, others will take your lead, and you’ll find yourself in a hostile workplace before you know it.
Working with challenging employees is one of the formative experiences of leadership. You’re likely to encounter more than one Squeaky Wheel over the years, so look at this as an opportunity to hone your listening and communication skills. In fact, you may even find that having to reinforce priorities and goals to those not already on the bandwagon will help you to further refine your vision for the organization.
SKYE Business Solutions helps leaders discover their purpose: the driving force behind your organization’s ability to achieve. Purpose empowers leaders to recognize value; creating a culture of engagement, contribution, and trust. SKYE propels your leadership to the next level: pushing through the ordinary to unlock the full potential throughout all levels of your organization.