How to Handle Problem Users When You're Not Their Boss
25 Apr, 2012
By: Robert Green
CAD Manager's Toolbox: If there's a bad apple in your department who's causing trouble for other CAD users, try this approach to turn things around.
At some point, almost all CAD managers have to deal with problematic users. Whether it's by ignoring standards, producing low-quality work, or just being hard to get along with, problem users can suck all the joy out of being a CAD manager. Complicating matters further is the fact that you are often not the problem user's direct supervisor, so you have no official authority to address the problem.
So what can you do? Confront the user with the leverage you have as CAD manager, even if you aren't his or her boss! After all, if a problem user is generating errors, CAD efficiency will drop — and that certainly falls under the purview of the CAD manager.
Here's a guide for dealing with problem users that I've used successfully:
Keep it private (at first). Inform the user of the problem in private so they are not embarrassed in front of their peers. Assure the user that as long as he or she does the right thing from here on out, the subject will never come up again. Do, however, make the user aware that you are documenting the conversation in case the issue does come up again.
Clearly define the problem. Give specific examples of problematic behavior in the past and stress that this must not happen again. Again, document the exchange.
Explain the cost of their actions. Help the user understand the downstream impact of their negligence: The errors they cause cascade on to other users, who have to fix those mistakes. Explain that having to fix problems costs time and money and is unfair to those who have to clean up the mess. Again, document the information.
Give them one more chance. Hopefully this will be the end of the problem. If the problem persists, however, you'll need to follow the next steps on this list.
Report to upper management. Should problems continue, report the issue to senior management. Do not sound angry. Do not call anyone names. Do not vent your frustration. Simply illustrate why the user's behavior is problematic, what the cost to the company is, and what you've already done to address the issue (this is where the documentation comes in handy).
Wait for the fallout. Once a senior manager calls the employee's behavior into question, you'll become persona non grata for a while — but such is management. At least now the problem has been addressed by someone higher in the hierarchy than you, and you are out of the "enforcement loop," while having done everything you can to address the problem and act in the company's best interests.
Stay at it. If the problem user settles back into his or her old patterns, you may need to repeat the above procedure — albeit in an abbreviated manner.
In my experiences with problem users, I've found that a dispassionate approach is best. Focusing on reduction of errors, rework, and costs really gets senior management's attention. And when senior management is on the CAD manager's side, users tend to follow standards much more closely! Try it.
Do you have a question or tip for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at email@example.com; if I use it in the newsletter you'll receive a cool Cadalyst prize!