How HR Can Deal With Crazy – As Long As It’s Behind Closed Doors

In HR, we run into employees all the time that do “crazy” pretty dang good!

I’m always interested in how we work around crazy. Almost never do we just fire crazy and get rid of it. No, we tend to keep it around and we tend to try and fix crazy.

I’m not talking about legitimate mental illness here. I’m talking about employees who are perfectly “fine” but act crazy for a number of reasons – attention, they love drama, they love pushing buttons, they love being in the middle of shit.

And you know what? They work crazy. We see it every day in our organizations.

My strategy: Do crazy better

I’ve found something that works really well for me in dealing with crazy: do crazy better than the employee does crazy. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s how it works: Crazy employees have power because they act crazy and no one wants to jump into their crazy storm. So, people just stay silent, try to stay away, change subjects, ignore them, etc. These are all great mechanisms to stay out of the crazy storm, but unfortunately, this just feeds the crazy storm and helps turn it into a crazy hurricane!

You see, crazy employees hear silence, silence to them is agreement, and now they’ve got justification for their crazy storm because, in their mind, no one told them they disagree. So that must mean they agree! You just can’t reason with crazy.

So, how do you stop crazy? Well, you just do crazy better than they do crazy. But, you do crazy under control – you fight a crazy storm with a crazy calm.

Crazy behind closed doors

But, let’s be clear – you still need to go crazy. Let me give you an example:

Crazy Employee:My boss is out to get me! Yesterday he told Jill “great job” and he didn’t tell me great job. I think he’s sleeping with Jill – you need to investigate. Also, Jill might be stealing – you didn’t hear that from me, but she just bought a new car and we make the same amount, I think – what does she make? – anyway I can’t afford a new car!”

Me: “You know what? I want to thank you for giving me this information. I’m pulling in your boss right now and we are going to have this out! Just sit here while I call him in – we are going to blast him!”

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Crazy Employee: “Hey! Wait! Don’t call him in while I’m here – he’ll know it’s me that told you.”

Me: “Yeah, but to fire him, I’m going to need you to testify at the trial. Once I fire him for sleeping with Jill, he’ll want to fight it. Happens all the time, no big deal – we got him! You’ll do fine on the witness stand.”

Crazy Employee:Um, I don’t want to do that – just forget it”

Crazy doesn’t like to go public in front of others because crazy works best one-on-one behind closed doors where there aren’t witnesses. You can stop crazy very quickly by going public and asking them to be crazy in front of others.

I’ve found that if I can do crazy behind closed doors better than crazy can do crazy, it tends to snap crazy back into semi-reality. Plus, it’s fun to act crazy sometimes – as long as it’s behind closed doors!

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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