What to do with an out-of-control employee

Today, when I go to work with a company that it is in a crisis, inevitably I find HER. The woman who is running the organization, and usually running it into the ground. She’s not the owner, the president or even an executive. She is often an admin or office manager, and she’s the one person that everyone in the company goes to for everything. Let’s call her Rosie.

Having an IT problem? Call Rosie. She schedules all technology repair.

Need an ID badge? Call Rosie. She arranges for all badges to be printed.

Ordering office supplies? All orders go through Rosie. Just tell her what you need.

Want to change your voice message? Rosie handles that.

Found a problem with our website? Rosie deals with the web designer.

Received an invoice? Rosie pays all the bills.

The media is calling? You better send that call to Rosie.

Upset about something? Have an idea? Do you know something that could improve our business? Please, don’t mention that to Rosie. She’s very sensitive and gets offended easily. Trust me, you don’t want to get on her bad side.


A need to be needed

Companies that allow a Rosie to run the business usually don’t enjoy massive growth, explosive profits or receive recognition for being innovative. They stay small and don’t make any changes. They call in someone like me when sales are suffering or when so many people have quit that they cannot meet their sales demands.

This level of dysfunction hurts everyone. I find myself in a room with six or eight executives and I’ll tell them, “You’re going to have to make changes.” Sometimes they would rather go out of business or close down a department than confront someone like Rosie.

Rosie’s need to be needed has caused the company to lose profits. What happens when Rosie eventually gets sick, takes vacation or retires? The company has a group of employees that don’t know how to do their job because someone else has been doing it for years. When the company begins to expect results, the employee becomes resentful for having to work harder for the same amount of pay.

But wait, Rosie didn’t intend to cause harm, losses or dysfunction, did she? No, she was being nice. Working hard. Giving extra effort. Being kind. And over the years, Rosie was never offered a raise or given a promotion. The company didn’t need to, she was already doing all the work for low pay. She already assumed the roles of higher positions without the title.


Brave enough to make changes

If you have a “Rosie” in your company, there is a solution, if you’re brave enough to make changes.

First, acknowledge the situation. Usually this is the hardest step. Next, take action by re-assigning roles to the appropriate team members. Be confident and stay committed.

There may be some rough waters to navigate, but stay on course. Once you lead your organization back to where it was meant to be, the entire team will thank you, even Rosie.


Beth Caldwell works with companies and organizations to confront conflict, deal with drama and make important decisions. She’s the host of Pittsburgh BizTV Show’s Smart Leadership.