I supervise a talented but difficult employee, whose performance has always been spotty but recently went downhill.
Lately, “Scott” has dragged himself into the office every morning. He looks exhausted. His eyelids half-close during staff meetings. Because I felt concerned, I asked him if he was okay. He said he was just working too hard. He pointed to a project assigned to him and said he had been working extra hours on it. This project was actually one I wanted to discuss with Scott, because while Scott is often late a day or two on projects, he’s weeks late on this one. I asked what led to the extra hours, and Scott explained he was using convoluted methods to produce a model project.
I let Scott know the client had called me and wanted the project completed sooner rather than later. When I asked, “can you just finish in the next day without the extra twists”? Scott acted as if I had insulted him. He said he’d “downgrade” his plans and the project would be ready in two days. When Scott left for the day, I looked at the project on his computer to see where he was at and what his methods looked like. I discovered Scott had barely started the project.
When I confronted Scott the next day, he broke down and admitted he’s working two jobs. My first instinct is to fire him, but should I try to “rehab” him? It’s really hard to find someone with the skills Scott has, and if I let him go, it overloads everyone else on my team.
You’re not alone as an employer in facing the challenge of managing employees who work more than one job. According to January’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.7 million U.S. employees hold two full-time jobs, https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat36.htm. Employees who work more than one job do it to boost their income; keep up with inflation, or handle significant, often unexpected, expenses.
Although working multiple jobs occurs more regularly with remote employees, with eight out of ten remote employees working at least two jobs at the same time, https://www.hcamag.com/us/specialization/employee-engagement/how-many-remote-workers-have-two-jobs/435607, it also happens with in-person workers. One survey of the 1250 remote employees who hold two full-time jobs reported 32% of them do so while working in-person for at least one of their employers, https://www.resumebuilder.com/7-in-10-remote-workers-have-multiple-jobs/.
In my March post on this career “polygamy,” https://workplacecoachblog.com/2022/03/remote-employee-moonlighting/, I outlined strategies employers could use to address employees working more than one job. I also reported that these employees might short shrift their employers on hours, with only 34% of remote employees holding two full-time jobs logging 80 hours weekly. Another 31% work 50 and 70 hours weekly, and 47% report working 40 hours or fewer weekly at both jobs combined.
Here’s what to consider when you assess Scott’s position on your team. You want to know that every employee you hire and retain will meet and exceed job expectations. If Scott had been able to do so, you wouldn’t have written to me. But he’s not. Though he’s talented, he regularly falls behind on deadlines. That’s a work performance problem, and if that was the only issue, you could “rehab” Scott.
If a solid employee works a second job for financial or career-advancement reasons, wise managers can and need to work with the employee to find a reasonable solution that works to keep the employee on the team.
Scott, however, presents a worse problem. Scott claimed he was working extra hours on a project he had barely started and then acted insulted when you reminded him the client needed the project sooner rather than later. He tried to con you. Here are two questions you need to ask. Can you trust Scott? What does it do to you as a manager when you supervise an employee you can’t trust?
You already answered the first question when you hopped on Scott’s computer to assess his work. What you haven’t answered is how supervising Scott might change you. If you’re a manager who prefers giving employees autonomy, Scott’s tendency to smokescreen his compromised performance will force you to change. You’ll need to micro-manage him. Worse, Scott has already shown you, by acting insulted when you discussed his lateness on a project, that he’ll make that experience miserable.
So, can you “rehab” him? You can possibly improve Scott’s job performance, but at what cost? And will you ever have what you need—an employee who you can trust and meets and exceeds expectations?
(c) 2023 Lynne Curry
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