Q&A: Employee Emails Gone Awry?

By Jeff WuorioBusiness on Main

Q: Our company policy is that all employees need to send an email to the front desk when leaving the building or workstation. But one older employee always emails snarky comments about how this is a waste of time. How do I deal with his behavior?

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A: One way to approach him is to employ the “more flies with honey than vinegar” strategy. Simply ask him in a very polite, nonconfrontational way to stop making those sorts of comments.

“Explain that while not everyone agrees with all policies and procedures, they're there for a reason. In this case, because the front desk needs to know who's in and who's out,” says executive coach and leadership consultant Stever Robbins. “Many people are already used to the current system, and even though it’s less efficient for him, they're comfortable with it.”

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If he’s still militant in his criticism of the email system, consider asking him to build a better mousetrap. “Ask him if he would like to propose an alternative system, build the support for the system, implement it and train everyone to use it,” says Robbins. “If he says yes, then give him that task and let him do all the work.”

From there, several different things might occur. First is his giving up and accepting the status quo. “Chances are that he'll get partway through and abandon the effort. But at that point, he has only himself to blame for not having a better alternative,” says Robbins.

Of course, if he’s really gung-ho on the effort, there's always the chance he'll deliver an even better system, in which case everybody wins.

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No matter how far your grumpy employee gets in devising a new solution, the project may, in fact, open your eyes to a conclusion that may have never occurred to you: Maybe he has a point.

“Sending an email when leaving the building seems like a reasonably large amount of work, possibly involving opening a Web browser or email program when it wasn't already open,” says Robbins. “Furthermore, it gives the front desk a hodgepodge of information about leavings in a pretty nonstandard fashion. What about one of those ‘In/Out’ whiteboards where people can just check a box on their way out?”

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Still, you may have your reasons for using your email system. So, if the prior suggestions don’t work, don’t pull any more punches. “If you really just want him to stop and don't care about his morale, ask him to stop sending the emails because they're hurting the morale of others in the company,” says Robbins.

If the critical emails keep coming, consider your trump card. “Fire him. Then say to him, ‘We suddenly have a job opening. Convince me why I should consider you as a candidate, given your demonstrated attitude,’" says Robbins. “It may give him a whole new perspective.”

— Jeff Wuorio