Workplace Nanny 101: When Employees Act Like Children – 3 Steps From a Certified HR Professional to Correcting Unruly Employees

by | Jan 21, 2010 | Blog, Employee Relations

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

A client was venting to me the other day about the irresponsibility of his office staff.  Twice in the past week he had to remind them to make sure the doors were locked and the equipment was turned off before they left the office for the day.  Imagine his surprise when he came into the office over the weekend and found the UPS overhead door unlocked and open for anyone to gain access to the facility!  His words to me were, “My ten year old is more responsible!  Why do they continually have to be told what to do?”

This brings up an important dilemma.  What do you do when employees act like children?  I am reminded of my son’s preschool class and am still amazed at how two women can get a class of 15 two-year-olds to lay down for a nap at the same time, yet in workplace, managers are constantly struggling to get grown up employees to cooperate and follow simple directions.  If this is happening in your workplace, it may be time for Workplace Nanny 101.  Here are some of Nanny Mitzi’s rules for handling “children” in the workplace:

1.  Set clear boundaries – As children need clear boundaries of what is and is not acceptable behavior, so do adults in the workplace.  Policies, work rules, etc. need to be clear, specific and unambiguous.  But beware – once you set boundaries, expect those boundaries to be tested.  Make sure that you are following your policies consistently and fairly at all times, no matter who the employee is.

2.  Set clear expectations – Make sure employees receive a copy of their job descriptions on the first day of their employment and review it with them often.  Employees, like children, need to know what good performance looks like.   Provide consistent, specific performance feedback on a regular basis.

3.  Set clear (and consistent) consequences – Use the Dr. Phil rule:  “children (employees) need to predict with 100% accuracy what the consequences of their actions will be.”  Corrective action needs to be administered fairly and consistently, and the consequences need to fit the infraction.

Follow these three guidelines and your organization will be well on its way to developing a controlled and effective workplace.

Mitzi Root, PHR
Senior Consultant

Download Our FREE Resources

A list of our useful HR resources