The Management Approach: The most critical thing to be done here is to recognize that you’ve got a “Wally”. “Wally” is a disease in the organization that must be treated and eliminated quickly and completely. You will need to immediately hold a private discussion with “Wally”, and tell him he must immediately shape up or ship out. He must understand that his behavior cannot and will not be tolerated. If “Wally” can’t contribute meaningfully to the group, then he has no place in it. You should lay out a recovery plan with specific near-term milestones and dates where “Wally” must demonstrate solid, real performance, with no excuses, no buzzwords, no fooling. Following this recovery plan and within its timeframe, “Wally” must either fix his behavior, leave on his own, or be fired for cause. “Wally” may be funny as a character in Dilbert, but he is not funny at all in real life.
The Prima Donna:
The Management Approach: You need to sit down privately with the Prima Donna, and make sure he/she is aware of this behavior; often he/she is not (is too much of a Prima Donna to even recognize it!). You should present clear and real examples of unacceptable Prima Donna behavior. You must make it clear that such behavior must change, as no one in the group wants to work with him/her. You should explain to the Prima Donna that this behavior is destructive to the organization as a whole. You should then lay out steps that must be taken for the Prima Donna to modify this behavior. Let this person know you will call them on any such behavior (privately) immediately after it is observed. If such behavior can be corrected, then that will solve the problem. If it cannot, then more serious action, up to and including dismissal, may be required. The Prima Donna must understand that you won’t have the performance of the entire group undermined by such Prima Donna behavior.
These are just two more of many personality types that you will come across in knowledge worker-based (and other) organizations. I will get into more in subsequent blog posts. The key is to recognize the various personality types as early as possible, and work to address the problems or opportunities that they may bring. You don’t want to destroy individuality or mold everyone into an automaton. At the same time, you don’t want certain individual behaviors to destroy team morale. You must walk a fine line, and find what works best for your organization using a style that fits you.