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Q. I have a toxic employee who is driving me crazy. When I became the manager of our sales department, my promotion was accepted well by everyone except “Brittany,” the newest member of the team.

Every day, Brittany storms into my office with various demands. She challenges my decisions and complains constantly about her co-workers. Her frequent outbursts have made staff meetings unbearable. Other team members used to joke about her verbal onslaughts, but now they just try to ignore her.

Whenever I attempt to discuss these problems, Brittany responds with argumentative arrogance followed by brooding silence. I would love to fire Brittany, but her sales performance is outstanding. If I get human resources involved, I’m afraid she will quit. Is there any way to fix this?

A. Your fear is actually the source of your troubles. Because you are unwilling to let her go, Brittany feels free to act out as much as she likes. Your reluctance to lose her has eroded your managerial power, so the only solution is to stop guaranteeing her job security.

First, you must get your manager to agree that Brittany should be dismissed if these disruptive actions continue. Your boss’s approval is critical because management needs to display a united front. Next, the two of you should meet with her to deliver a stern warning and a performance improvement plan.

Should Brittany suggest she can’t control this behavior, explain that you have evidence to the contrary. As a successful salesperson, she clearly possesses interpersonal skills which she is not using in the office. So if she wants to keep her job, she must begin treating colleagues like customers.

If this disciplinary talk causes Brittany to leave, that will actually be to your benefit. Losing a highly productive sales employee is tough, but keeping this poisonous person around would be much worse.

Q. Our company is conducting an employee satisfaction survey. Management says our responses cannot be identified, but we have to enter a pre-assigned user name and password to access the survey form. This makes me uncomfortable. Should I be concerned?

A. Employee surveys are only valid when people give honest opinions. Since concerns about being identified can invalidate the data, professional survey providers take steps to prevent this problem. Therefore, you have less to worry about if the survey is being conducted by a reputable outside vendor.

Identity can be protected through either anonymity or confidentiality. Anonymity means there is no way to know who completed each form, while confidentiality implies that such information may be gathered, but not compiled or shared.

If the vendor has given everyone the same user name and password, responses should be anonymous, especially if you log in from a personal device. However, unique identifiers may be assigned to ensure that no one takes the survey twice. In that case, you should ask how confidentiality will be protected.

But if this survey is being administered in-house, that’s a different story. Because internal systems provide many ways to connect survey answers to individuals, your confidence in anonymity will depend upon your level of trust in management.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”

www.yourofficecoach.com

Twitter: @officecoach

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