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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,"
Morganelli’s suggestion for coping with recurrent employee issues:
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
- 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
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."
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