Problem Employees Are An IT Manager’s Problem

IT Managers Need To Clean Up The Employees Problems That They Own…
IT Managers Need To Clean Up The Employees Problems That They Own…

Not all IT employees are created equal. As an IT manager you are going to have some great employees on your team – and then you are going to have the others. Every bunch of apples has at least one bad one in it, and every IT manager finds that he or she has a problem employee somewhere in their midst.

What should you do when you discover that you have a problem IT employee on your team? They seem to take up all of your time and they are the ones who require all of your attention. Clearly this can’t be allowed to go on for long. What’s an IT manager to do?

Why Are Some IT Team Members Problem Employees?

Before you can solve the issue of your problem employees, you first need to understand why this issue exists in the first place. Ultimately it all comes down to employee motivation.

As an IT manager, you want your employees to work hard. However, your problem employees simply aren’t doing that and it shows in how little they are able to accomplish and potentially in the low quality of the results that they are producing.

In the past, it was thought that the best way to motivate all employees, including the problem ones, was through what researchers called “extrinsic” incentives. These are things like more pay, larger offices, more impressive job titles, etc. Sadly, the research showed that these types of things normally don’t cause IT workers to work harder for very long after they are given and they don’t solve the issue of your problem employees who simply aren’t working hard enough.

The good news is that the same researchers did more studies and what they found is that there is an additional set of rewards called “intrinsic” rewards that do motivate most employees over the long haul. These types of rewards have to do with the type of work that employees are doing: doing more interesting work, facing more challenges, and gaining more job related responsibility.

How To Solve The Problem Employee Problem

Not all problem employees can be transformed into hard working employees that you’ll want to have on your team. Instead, your job as an IT manager is to work with your problem employees in order to determine if there is any way to change the way that they perform their work.

You are not going to be able to talk them into doing better work. No amount of threats, praise, or even motivational pep-talks is going to get you the results that you are looking for. Instead, you’re going to have to find a way to tap into what motivates them from the inside.

There are a number of ways to tap into your problem employee’s intrinsic rewards system. Here are three that you can try:


  • Remove Job Controls: some problem employees are not performing at their peak level because they are struggling with being managed too closely. They find too much (or too close) management to be restrictive and therefore they perform at a lower level. As an IT manager, you can remove some of these controls while still making sure that the problem employees are aware that they are still fully accountable for completing high quality work on time according to spec.



  • Total Ownership: IT employees can often become frustrated and disengaged if they can’t see how the work that they are doing fits into the larger picture. With your problem employees one thing that you can do is to make them responsible for a larger section of work that will allow them to better see how their contribution fits into the whole.



  • Provide More Information: they don’t call IT workers “knowledge workers” for nothing. Keeping your problem workers aware of how the project that they are working on is going and what it’s status is can help them to feel more included and boost their sense of worth along with the quality of the results that they are producing.


In the end, your job as an IT manager is to work with your problem employees in order to see if they can be turned around. These job transformation suggestions will help in some cases; however, if you can’t transform a problem worker into a productive worker, then it may be time for you to go looking for a replacement.

What All Of This Means For You

IT managers all too often find that at least one member of their team is a problem employee. These employees are for some reason not motivated to perform their jobs at a level that you need them to.

In order to attempt to address this issue, IT managers need to work with the problem employees to make one more attempt to turn them into productive employees. This involves establishing intrinsic rewards that will help to make their jobs more interesting.

Not all problem employees can be transformed into productive team members. However, IT managers have the responsibility to work with problem employees in order to see if there is any way to help them boost their performance.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think that an IT manager should work with a problem employee before throwing in the towel?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

IT Managers who discover that they have a problem employee on their hands need to move quickly to solve their problem. The trick is determining just exactly what you need to do. Sure you could fire them, but then you’d have to go through all of the effort of going out and finding their replacement. It sure seems like coming up with a way to transform a problem employee into a good employee is what you should be looking for.