How to Manage Talented, Yet Quirky Employees

Your new hire aced the interview and presented an impressive résumé. You’re excited to have this talented individual on your team. But as the weeks go by, it becomes apparent that, despite all this new recruit’s technical skills, the person has a tricky character trait.

Too often, the skills that earn job candidates a position are negated by their poor people skills. Those who look good on paper and in the interview may turn out to lack empathy, avoid responsibility or act entitled.

What can you, as the new hire’s manager, do to effectively coach and train someone who is strong on cognitive intelligence but lacking in emotional intelligence? Pick out your employee from among the problematic personality types that follow and try the proposed management strategies to develop the individual’s soft skills.

The Ambitious Over-Achiever

She is super talented and she knows it. She comes in early, works late, offers smart ideas and gets more done in less time than her co-workers. And though she treats you, her boss, with the proper amount of deference, she’s hungry for more assignments, recognition, boss time and training than her peers — and they resent it.

Management strategy: Let your over-achiever share her talent and work ethic in the development of a potential peer. Assign her a more junior employee to mentor — someone with talent who is deserving of more encouragement and guidance. This will help her foster co-operative rather than competitive skills. Check in to make sure that she’s working closely with her protégé and not just piling on tasks without offering support or direction.

The Lazy Brainiac

You hired him because he was top of his class and had a recommendation that placed him above the competition. He’s clever and talks a good game. But his work ethic is lagging and he always has an excuse ready for missing deadlines or falling short on his assignments. Others on the team resent his lack of reliability.

Management strategy: Ask this employee to honestly evaluate his own performance. You may uncover a simple inability to dive in to the task at hand. Help him strengthen his “discipline muscle” by breaking assignments into smaller pieces. Play up his ability to be quick on his feet by asking him to facilitate team meetings or take part in client meetings.

The Dicer and Splicer

She has a carefully calibrated sense of what falls within her job description and what doesn’t, and she’s unwilling to pitch in on anything that doesn’t. But with increased growth in the company, everyone needs to step up and take on more until more staff can be brought on -– even this talented employee.

Management strategy: Call a staff meeting and spell out what’s expected through this transition period. Tell your employees that they will be evaluated partly on their ability to help out in these circumstances. If the Splicer remains inflexible, schedule a one-on-one meeting to find out what will help her feel more comfortable taking on these new tasks.

The Perfectionist

Every report this high-achieving employee hands in is perfect, and every task he does, he does well. However, his need to dot every “i” has, on occasion, held up projects. Other employees find him hard to work with because he’s compelled to revise everything they contribute. In a team-oriented culture, he’s just not a team player, and complaints about his compulsiveness abound.

Management strategy: Perfectionists often enjoy less job satisfaction than their peers. Praise his high level of competence, but try to get him to identify aspects of his work style that impede his performance. Ask about aspects of his job that he finds frustrating. You might learn, for example, that a particular process is inefficient — and that he can suggest how to better get the job done.

The Short Fuse

This talented employee turns out exceptional work. He’s creative and smart, hard-working and reliable. But he’s often short-tempered with others when someone offers feedback. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t respond well to constructive criticism. Instead of listening to other points of view, he lashes out or fumes with fury.

Management strategy: Point out to him that he has management potential based on his skill set — but advancement only happens for those who can manage key relationships. Help him see that he must learn how to invite constructive feedback, get along with others and redirect his defensiveness and aggression. To rise in the ranks, he will need to work on becoming more open and trusting with fellow employees.

The Invisible Cog

She never misses a day of work and competently completes her assignments. She avoids small talk and any socializing with colleagues after hours. No one ever has any complaints about her — she’s essentially a functioning cog in the wheel.

Management strategy: Every business needs people who get the job done consistently. But Invisible Cogs may have hidden talents, and as a manager it’s your task to help those solid team players grow. Offer this type of worker a development opportunity that’s more people-oriented. Perhaps you can offer to provide training in a new software program and then promote her to a new position training others. You may discover that your Invisible Cog has abundant unrealized potential.

Photo Credit: gvicorp2013 Flickr via Compfight cc