How to Effectively Manage Difficult Employees: The Do-Gooder

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How to Effectively Manage Difficult Employees: The Do-Gooder

There sure are a lot of different personalities to deal with in the workplace! As a manager, you have to work with diverse personas on an even closer level. And let’s face it, some of those characters are difficult to deal with. Some may even seem, ahem, unmanageable.

To help busy managers deal with the seemingly “unmanageables,” Jezra Kaye and I wrote a book called,  Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee. In the book, we cover how to effectively manage many of the common unmanageable employees (UE’s). Do any of these employees sound familiar?

  • The AWOL, who hasn’t responded to email for five hours when the deadline is swiftly approaching.

  • The Egomaniac, who can teach us all the very best ways not to be a team player.

  • The Excuse-Maker, whose fax machine ate her last three reports.

  • The Grumbler, who can drain the life of even the most jubilant team with his complaints.

  • The Rude-nik, who you may find belittling a new hire in the employee kitchen this very moment.

Well, we have another UE to throw in the mix. Meet The Do-Gooder.

One unmanageable employee is "The Do-Gooder." Here is how to manage them.

The truth is, everyone loves The Do-Gooder. She remembers birthdays, listens to people’s woes (for half of the workday), brings freshly baked cookies on Fridays and has planned every single surprise party the office has ever had. The only problem is, while The Do-Gooder is arranging a surprise party in the conference room, no work is getting done. When she’s checking if her co-workers are doing okay, she’s definitely not simultaneously finishing her RFP. But she’s so nice; what can be done? How can she truly be managed?

Jezra and I developed a “5C’ tool kit that works with any UE, even The Do-Gooder. Take a look:

  1. First things first, you must Commit or Quit. Do you plan on keeping The Do-Gooder as a member of your team? If yes, despite your frustrations, you need to commit to her future. If you can’t make that commitment, it’s time to let The Do-Gooder go.

  1. After you’ve committed and taken a deep breath, it’s time to Communicate. Truly honest conversations between managers and employees can be uncomfortable for everyone. A particular hazard when communicating with The Do-Gooder is heightened emotions. Kind people like The Do-Gooder are often sensitive. So it’s important to keep your conversation on track.

  2. To keep your conversation on track, focus on clarifying goals and roles. Maybe The Do-Gooder doesn’t realize that taking the emotional temperature of her team on a regular basis is truly less important than meeting deadlines. Clarify her role and goals on the team so she can focus on achieving them.

  3. After clarifying The Do-Gooder’s goals and roles, the most effective next step is Coaching. Coaching is a powerful management tool for building quality relationships with your employees, and shifting their deeply imbedded behavioral habits. Coach The Do-Gooder to help her get on the right track and stay on it.

  4. Staying in the right track is the hard part because old behaviors are difficult to break. Before you know it, The Do-Gooder will be addressing 55 thank you cards at her desk before returning her missed calls. There’s a solution: create accountability with a system to keep The Do-Gooder on track with her newly defined goals and roles. This system will benefit both of you; it will help her stay focused on her tasks, and help you keep track of your management goals.

Managers, have you met The Do-Gooder? I’d love to hear your stories. What has worked (and not worked) for you when managing them? Leave a comment below, send me an email, or tweet me.

There are many more employee types that seem unmanageable. I love to speak about difficult employees too! Stay tuned.

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  1. Jezra Kaye
    February 14, 2014

    Great post, Anne (and may I have one of those cookies?). As you point out, it can be HARDER to deal with disruptions created by well-meaning employees, because you need to curb their behavior without dampening their enthusiasm. Conversation is key, and having an objective framework for those talks will help you avoid Do-Gooder drama.

    • Anne Loehr
      February 15, 2014

      Jezra, thanks for the reminder that the challenge is managing the disruptions and impact of diverse personalities. Most people are well-intentioned, yet unaware of how their actions impact the team and organization. A little awareness through honest conversations can help move to action and eventual behavior change.


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