HR Management & Compliance

How to Deal with Needy Employees

HR professionals and managers have a lot on their plates, to put it mildly. So what can they do when they have needy employees who eat up disproportionate chunks of their time? You know the type—they ask you to review their work, seek constant feedback, or just show up at your desk to chat. Rebecca Knight offers some do’s and don’ts for managing these employees on a Harvard Business Review blog.

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  • Reflect on the cause of the neediness so you can come at the problem from a position of empathy.
  • Talk to your employee and brainstorm ways to fix the problem and help him or her gain confidence in the workplace.
  • Model healthy boundaries. Don’t:
  • Lose sight of the fact that your role as manager is to create an environment that’s energizing for your team. Be supportive.
  • Neglect to connect on a human level with your needy worker. Just 5 extra minutes per day can make a big difference.
  • Ignore a situation that doesn’t improve. If the neediness affects the employee’s work performance, it may be a sign that this person is not up to the job.
  • When talking with a needy employee about his or her behavior, avoid using a shrill, impatient, or dismissive tone. Note that all of the informal check-ins aren’t an efficient use of time for either of you, but ask what’s going on and how you can better support the employee. You also could indirectly place the blame on yourself (“I sense that I’m in your work too much and might be a bottleneck”) to help the worker save face. And you can boost the employee’s ego by saying he or she deserves autonomy.

Whatever your approach, you must follow up by listening carefully to the employee’s response, remembering that your role is to coach staff and help them grow. Does the employee need more direction? A deeper relationship with you? More training? What can you do to resolve the neediness?

Remember that you’re probably impeding your employees’ development if you’re always available for them—it’s better to model healthy boundaries. When employees come to you for every little thing, you need to help them unlearn that pattern and stand on their own two feet.

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