Unexpectedly Intriguing!
14 April 2005

AP Photo: Chris Shelton By now, fans of this season of The Apprentice will have formed their own opinions of Chris Shelton, who has been aptly described by the Arizona Republic's Suzanne Condie Lambert as "TV's wackiest real estate millionaire/tobacco-chewing rageaholic" in her regular People column. Mr. Shelton has become a subject in Ms. Lambert's regular column due to his recent misbehavior near Tampa, Florida where he was arrested for disorderly conduct:

Shelton, 22, one of six remaining contestants competing for a job with Donald Trump, was taken into custody early Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The column details the circumstances of Mr. Shelton's arrest, in which the quick-tempered characteristics familiar to viewers of The Apprentice are apparent:

Shelton was peeved over a $20 cover charge for the hotel bar. "There were several patrons in the area who where visibly shaken by his actions," the police report says. "After several attempts to calm Shelton, he continued to yell and curse, refusing to calm down and stop causing a scene."

Now, imagine Chris Shelton works for you, and his history of heated outbursts with coworkers as well as this latest incident are known to you. What do you do?

Fire him? Well, yes, you could just fire him, and I suspect that Donald Trump will avail himself of the opportunity to do so in the show's upcoming final episodes. Outside of the show's rules however, firing people in real life, even when done right comes with real economic costs, which are similar to those of replacing a worker lost to injury. These costs are combined with legal considerations, which if not properly handled will lead to additional costs through defensive legal action.

These costs and considerations are why the hiring practices at so many companies have evolved to be exceptionally rigorous for the job-seeker. If the company gets the "people" aspect of their hiring decision wrong, they stand to bear considerable costs down the road in having to deal with the difficult employee.

So let's assume that your difficult employee made it through your company's screening process, and is an employee within your organization. What can you do?

Ken Godevenos, who has more that 26 years of experience in the Human Resources (HR) field, provides the following summary checklist for dealing with difficult employees (via Church Business):

  1. Remain positive;
  2. Be direct, descriptive and non-judgmental;
  3. Be prepared with facts, not gossip or rumors;
  4. Address the problem, don’t attack the person;
  5. Maintain eye contact (also be aware of your body language);
  6. Watch your tone of voice and timing; and
  7. Focus on the message, restating it as appropriate and necessary.

He also offers some additional guidelines worth noting:

  1. Realize that the behavior is often predictable. Look for patterns.
  2. Expect that behavior will impact others.
  3. Know when to withdraw and turn to experts such as medical and psychological professionals (even if you do some personal counseling).
  4. Try to discover the root causes of the problem so they can be addressed most appropriately, either by you or other professionals.
  5. Do NOT try to provoke them into quitting or getting fired. Most employees are worth saving with some coaching and a solid approach to getting them to change or to accept help.
  6. Always deal with the issue of their performance rather than criticizing them personally.

For all the criticism Donald Trump takes for his extravagances, as someone who has successfully managed his business through both boom and bust, he does get the personal aspect of managing and leadership right. He has clearly learned how to deal with difficult employees using many of the techniques outlined above, which we've seen in action in each of the "boardrooms" that conclude the shows where Chris Shelton has been a focus of attention for his hot-tempered conduct.

These people management skills are also apparent outside the boardroom. Here is what Donald Trump said at a press conference regarding the recent incident with Chris Shelton, which provides background into his conduct during the show as well as hints at what's to come in the next episode:

The real estate mogul and "Apprentice" star also said he felt "very badly" for Chris Shelton, the 22-year-old "Apprentice" candidate who was arrested early Sunday for disorderly conduct at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Fla. Trump even offered to "be there" for Shelton.

"He's got a problem," said Trump. "He's got an anger management problem. We talked about it on the show. He truly is an angry guy."

On the competitive reality show, real estate millionaire Shelton frequently screams during boardroom sessions. During a pizza-selling task on the March 31 episode, Shelton engaged in an expletive-filled spat with teammate Alex Thomason. Trump said Shelton's fired-up temperament will again be on display during Thursday's episode.

"By circumstance, it happens to involve Chris to a large extent," said Trump. "He has a very interesting time on the show."

Say what you will, Donald Trump certainly has a unique blend of promotional and managerial skills.

More on Dealing with Difficult People

Steve Pavlina, who speaks, writes and blogs about personal growth development, has several interesting suggestions, not all of can be applied to this particular situation, but may suggest ways to deal with the problem that you may not otherwise consider.

Systemic Solutions is in the business of developing and conducting training for managers in relationship management. As such, they have a good outline of the kind of problems that employees may face and the options available to managers in dealing with them.

For those looking for a recap of last week's episode, Suzanne Condie Lambert's weekly Apprentice column in the Arizona Republic is still the best.

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