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Managing Sales Reps That Don’t Play Well With Others

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 9:16am
Randy Prather

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So here’s an interesting situation with which you might have experienced or even be currently experiencing. Say that you manage a sales representative that is a consistent top performer…but unfortunately is also disrespectful to others in your office and disliked by virtually everybody at the company. This rep knows that he or she is an asset to the company—and possibly thinks of him or herself as irreplaceable.

This is precisely the type of paradox that was recently shared by member of a LinkedIn Group to which I belong. It was a compelling question, and I thought I’d share my response with you because it’s certainly an issue that challenges sales managers at medical device companies, as well as businesses in virtually every industry.

I wrote:
“Most behaviors are learned and reinforced through a system of rewards. Unfortunately, the bad behavior ‘reward’ most typically plays out with the manager not doing anything ‘for the good reward of his/her bottom line.’

The unintended consequence of doing nothing is reinforcement of that bad behavior in that person—coupled with the company-wide reinforcement that bad behavior will be tolerated at the company. As noted earlier by another discussion participant, that is a seriously destructive cancer within a team.

Now the world of HR must also be addressed. If the ‘bad apple’ has always been rewarded for his/her bad behavior with good reviews, someone has to start the process to ensure that all are treated equally.

I would immediately and definitively address the problematic performer with observations that very specific examples with dates, times, etc. If that ‘history’ has not been built, it would need to done quickly. In no uncertain terms, the understanding and acknowledgement that such actions are not acceptable must be relayed in writing.

I might also suggest involving HR in a thought process if that ‘problematic performer’ is high profile. A little FYI and CYA are never a bad mix!

My experience has been that most good HR department managers often wonder ‘Why didn't somebody do something with that person earlier?’ and are very supportive when these types of matters are brought to their attention.

After the process and documentation has begun, how it plays out will and should always be determined by the actions of the employee against the fair and equal expectations of the organization.

The result will hopefully be a good message for the rest of the team...and a better message for the ‘problematic performer.’”

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