Start Your FREE Membership NOW
 Discover Proven Ways to Be a Better Law Office Manager
 Get Our Weekly eNewsletter, Law Office Manager Bulletin,
    and MUCH MORE
 Absolutely NO Risk or Obligation on Your Part -- It's FREE!

Upgrade to Premium Membership NOW for Just $27!
Get 3 Months of Full Premium Membership Access
Includes Our Monthly Newsletter, Office Toolbox, Policy Center, and Archives

How to handle 4 really irritating employee behavior problems

Not all staffing issues are related to discipline or employment law. In many cases, it’s the seemingly less serious issues that can fluster even the most experienced manager. Here are four such issues with suggestions on how to handle them.

1 Flirting, but not by invitation

Workplace flirting is an issue that can create administrative headaches and make others in the office very uncomfortable. It is especially tricky when it involves an employee flirting with an attorney.

When this occurs, many administrators do what comes naturally—they make subtle comments and hope the employee gets the message and begins acting more appropriately. That approach is one that rarely, if ever, works.

The best approach is to deal with the issue directly.

Begin by talking with the attorney about what is happening. Say, for example, “I have felt there has been some discomfort on your part regarding Staffer A and I was concerned because I witnessed what I perceived to be some crossing of professional boundaries. Before I talk with her, I would like to get your sense of what is going on.”

Once you’ve spoken to the attorney, and assuming he/she confirms your suspicions, meet privately with the staffer. The conversation may be awkward, so to avoid sounding accusatory, use the word “I” more than the word “you.” Say, for example, “I have some concerns. I have noticed there are some professional boundaries being crossed in your dealings with Attorney B.”

“This is difficult for me to say because I value you personally, but I want to help you professionally.”

Next cite an example of the inappropriate behavior. Say, for example, “I was uncomfortable in the meeting yesterday when you winked at Attorney B (or touched his arm or whatever).”

End by saying, “It will be helpful to your overall career goals to know this.”

This is usually enough to stop the advances; however, if the behavior continues then it may be time to take disciplinary action.

2 Here are my problems

Administrators are problem solvers who need to be available to staff; however, it becomes problematic when an employee sees you as a confidante with whom they feel comfortable sharing personal problems.

When this happens, it’s important you stop the conversations before you become a full-time sounding board privy to information you’d rather not know.

To put an end to the conversations, start sending nonverbal messages that personal discussions are off limits. To do this, avoid making eye contact when personal issues come up and turn your attention to your work. If the employee doesn’t get the hint, then it’s time to be direct. Say something like, “I wish I could talk, but I have work to do.”

If the employee persists then you’ll have to be clearer still. “I’m really sorry you are having a problem, but the office is just not the place to talk about issues like this. If you’d like, I can put you in touch with the firm’s Employee Assistance Program.”

3 The too-loud staffer

Staff who speak too loudly can distract others and make them feel uncomfortable, especially if the conversation involves private or confidential remarks that can be easily overheard.

Fortunately, most people who are loud don’t realize it and appreciate being told they can be overheard. The best approach is to take on a helpful tone and say, “I’m sure you didn’t realize it, but the other day when you were talking about your health problems, it was loud enough for everyone in the lobby to hear. I know you value privacy so I thought you should know.”

The remark is informative rather than critical, so no one looks bad and everybody wins. If all goes well, the employee won’t be offended and will start speaking more softly.

4 Inappropriate staff dress

The only solution is to establish a dress code and refer to it when an employee dresses inappropriately.

To be effective, the dress code must be specific so there is no room for misunderstanding. Staff must understand that the firm’s image is at stake and how they dress reflects either positively or negatively on how the firm is viewed.

The dress code should outline what is, and is not, appropriate in every category of clothing from shirts to shoes. For example, if staff are required to wear socks, say so. If jeans are prohibited except on special occasions, then say so.

Include guidelines related to grooming details such as hair, accessories, piercings, and tattoos.

If the office has casual days, spell out what is, and isn’t, acceptable. Business casual taboos should include items such as sweatshirts, athletic shoes, sleeveless blouses or shirts, shorts, and t-shirts with slogans.

Trends change so review the policy yearly to ensure it still protects the firm’s image.

Related reading:

Failsafe solutions to 3 irritating staff behavior problems

Warm weather work attire

What every employee handbook absolutely, positively, must cover









Try Premium Membership