In Golf, as in Life, The Mental Game: Leah Cooper

Corrections or additions?

Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 29, 2000. All rights reserved.

Disciplining Difficult Employees: Len Morganelli


Beverly is a difficult employee. She is supposed to

be on the job at 8:30 a.m., but she rarely arrives before 9 a.m. Her

tardiness is affecting the performance of co-workers, who rely on

her to be in on time.

Tom is also a difficult employee. Ever since he and his wife split

up, his morale has sunk. He comes to work on time but leaves just

as promptly, and his presentations at important meetings have been

lackluster, causing investors to lose confidence.

Tom and Beverly are otherwise good employees, but these eccentricities

are having an effect on the overall business. And chances are, you

know them. "Every seminar, when we ask the employers to share

some of their problems, almost a quarter of them raise their hand

and say lateness," says Len Morganelli, the New Jersey Department

of Labor’s human resource analyst, who instructs a seminar on "Managing

or Supervising Troubled and Difficult Employees," on Thursday,

March 30, at 9 a.m. at the Labor Building in Trenton. Cost: $10. Call


"It seems tardiness is endemic to every industry, and the question

is always how do I get the employee to come in on time," says

Morganelli, who has a degree from St. Peter’s College and has spent

25 years with the New Jersey Department of Labor. He now works with

the Employer Human Resource Services Unit, a division that functions

like a private management consultant, but is far less expensive (seminars

costs $10). "We have worked with mom and pop operations as well

as major Fortune 500 companies here in New Jersey," says Morganelli,

"from turnover and absenteeism, to writing post-exit surveys and

creating career ladders."

Tardiness, absenteeism, depression, substance abuse, and a bad attitude

are all traits of the troubled employee and pose a serious dilemma

for employers: is it worth replacing them, after investing the time

and energy into train them? "Every time someone leaves, walks

off the job, it costs the employer money and it’s money that they

could save," says Morganelli. "If you have an employee who’s

a sterling individual, the kind you wish all your employees were like,

but they show up 20 minutes late for work everyday, it begins to be

a snub to the rules and regulations and sets an example to other employees."

Ironically, most problems with employees can be settled easily, says

Morganelli. Pink slips and years of psychoanalysis are unnecessary.

"Usually, when you sit down and talk to an employee and find out

why the problems exist, you can come up with a plan of action,"

he says.

Morganelli’s suggestion for coping with recurrent employee issues:

First, ask why. "Try to understand what is causing

the employee to conduct themselves in a way that we would consider

inappropriate," says Morganelli. "Some employers don’t even

bother to ask the question. They just say, `you’re late, you’re fired.’

Sometimes it’s a matter of asking someone a very simple question:

why are you late everyday? They might say, `I have a child,’ or `I

rely on public transportation and I have to take three buses to get

here.’ An employer could then say `why don’t you come in at 8:30 a.m.

or 8 a.m.?’"

Be objective and consistent. "Listen to what your

employees have to say," says Morganelli. "Maybe it’s not complaining.

Maybe there’s validity. Offer them courtesy and treat them fairly

and squarely. What we try to impress upon employers is that it’s very

important to be consistent in administering the various rules and

policies and to know your companies’ policies. It doesn’t really matter

what the transgression is — if the company has a policy against

bringing in alcohol, even if it’s a sealed bottle of champagne that

someone is giving to a coworker as a gift, then that employee has

broken the law."

Even when it’s necessary to confront an employee about his behavior,

use common sense — determine whether it was a willful act, or

an act of ignorance or best intentions.

Develop a plan of action. It should be based on company

policy, rules and regulations, union rules, or civil service rules

and regulations.

Turn to professional help. In situations where an employee

has problems that are beyond the scope of human resources, turn to

an employee assistance program organized through a medical plan or

contracted with an organization or community health center.

Whatever you do, don’t turn your back on the behavior, or give

up on the employee. "An employee should do what is requested of

him or her, and to refuse is usually wrong, and they can always grieve

or complain about it later," says Morganelli. "I hate to use

the word `anarchy,’ but that’s when trouble arises. You have rules

and regulations and they have to be adhered to. You have to set down

some code of behavior or you have a three-ring circus going on and

an employer can’t afford that."

— Melinda Sherwood

Top Of Page
In Golf, as in Life, The Mental Game: Leah Cooper


B>Leah Cooper has been called the next Harvey Pennick

— a motivational trainer who helps people find out what they need

to do. Golfers find that what they learn in her "stress management

for putting" workshops somehow works its way back into their business


Cooper teaches how to help your body operate in the present. Then,

she says, "you are using your observing mind, and the judgmental

mind disappears." At the Learning Studio, 4250 Route 1 North,

her "Managing Stress and the Mental Game of Golf," will be

Tuesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. Cost: $69. Bring a putter and an empty

tin can. Call 609-688-0800.

Cooper has been coaching golf since 1993 and she also conducts stress

management training for corporations and educational institutions.

Originally from Montclair, she is the cousin of the legendary choreographer

Jerome Robbins, grew up in Florida, studied modern dance and played

sports avidly. She lived in the Pacific Northwest for 28 years before

returning to New Jersey. Her businesses, Managing Stress in the Mental

Game of Golf Inc. and Steal a Moment, are at 3371 Brunswick Pike (609-538-1477).

All of the stress management tips for golfers can be done on the course

in full view of everybody watching. Golfers are paranoid, she observes,

because they think that everyone is watching them — and indeed

they are being watched. So she coaches them in socially acceptable

actions that cannot be detected, such as to release tension in various

parts of the body from the head to the toes. She starts with the jaw

and works in conjunction with the breath. A simple exercise like tightening

the big muscles of the stomach for three seconds, then relaxing and

sensing how the relaxation feels, can help someone, as she says, "feel

that you own yourself from the skin in."

"If you do these things each time and pay attention to the sensations

produced, both in the squeeze and the release, you are right inside

your body — which is where you need to be to helpful for golf

shots," says Cooper. "You have also burned off some of the

stress hormones for a sensation of relief. You have chosen to do something

about the way you feel."

"All day you give out parts of yourself, and by the end of day

you feel like emotional Swiss cheese," says Cooper. "When

you take the time to do something about your stress, it is a reminder

that you work for somebody but you are still a human being. I call

it feeling from the inside, realizing that you have a right to take

care of yourself, to take a little vacation, to let the steam out

of the pressure cooker. By the end of the day, there will be more

of yourself left, for your family, yourself, your other activities."

Previous StoryNext Story

Corrections or additions?

This page is published by

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.