As a great manager, you probably wish you could spend more of your workday mentoring your employees and giving them all of the attention they need. Realistically though, that’s very difficult to do while accomplishing all the work on your plate. So how do you handle an employee that demands more than their fair share of your time? Someone that constantly shows up at your desk needing feedback, reassurance, or attention can make work very difficult as you struggle to manage them while getting your own tasks done.
If you’re feeling frustrated that your employee demands so much time that you can’t get your own work done, while at the same time feeling guilty that you’re not doing your job as a manager, you should first try and understand why they are so needy. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your employee and be empathetic to their situation. Maybe the employee worked for a micromanager in the past and their neediness is normal work behavior for them. If you think this is the case, talk to them about your management style and tell them that you have confidence in them and their work. You should also be reflective on the organizational circumstances. If employees are getting laid off, the employee may be nervous that they’re next and they are relying on you for the reassurance that their job is safe.
If you can find any obvious source for the employee’s neediness, the next step is to address it head-on. You should approach the conversation from a place of concern and understanding, not one of frustration. You can use the conversation to boost your employee’s confidence and reassure them that you trust them to do a great job. Start the conversation in a non-confrontational way by saying something like: “I notice that you’ve been checking in with me a lot. Is there something I can do to support you better? You are great at your job and I want you to know that you have my trust and don’t always need to check in with me”.
During this conversation with your employee, you also must listen carefully to what they need. Maybe your employee actually does need more direction or additional training. These are easy fixes to resolve their neediness and give them more confidence to perform their job. Or, if your employee says they are feeling disconnected from you, this is a valid concern and can be resolved by scheduling daily check-ins. Try saying something like: “I appreciate that you’d like to feel more connected. How about we set aside five minutes at the start of each morning to catch up on yesterday’s activities and plan for today?”. These check-ins don’t need to take up a lot of time, but a five-minute meeting or call might save you an hour if it helps your employee be less needy throughout the day.
If you’ve tried addressing the employee’s neediness issue and find yourself still getting pulled away from your work to walk them through every single task or project, you may have a performance issue to address. You should schedule a performance evaluation with your employee and include a self-evaluation element for them to complete. If they’re not able to do their job effectively, they’ll recognize it and they probably aren’t happy underperforming. If the employee is not the right person for the job, be sure to address it quickly before it becomes a major issue.
If you have a clingy employee remember to first reflect on why they may be seeking extra attention. From there you can talk to your employee and figure out how you can help them be less needy, and create boundaries to help support them. When you’re speaking with your employee, try not to be frustrated and remember that your employee isn’t trying to be annoying – they are likely just looking for your reassurance. Understanding what your employee needs, and carving out appropriate time for them, will reduce their neediness and allow you to get back to work.