Companies will always have their fair share of difficult, unwilling employees, but is it always the employee’s fault? A person can be molded the way they are because of a bad experience at a previous job, from a lack of training or the typical feeling of being under appreciated.

Recently, I was called on by an out of state manufacturing firm to help them to “fix” the attitude of one of their employees. As the employer described, Mary was “difficult to work with” and at times seemed “unapproachable.” Mary had been in her analyst role for almost 3 years, not the longest in the department of 10 but certainly not the rookie on the team either. Being that Mary seemed “unapproachable,” her director was uncomfortable providing her with clarifications and suggestions to better her work output, often leading to delayed or, worse, unfinished tasks.

When Mary’s director asked me to come in, my first objective was to identify the problem. This was done by going through specific role-play scenarios that brought out Mary’s true thoughts about her role, allowing me, as her coach, to get a better idea of where the problem was and how the problem came about in the first place.

After the exercise, I realized that Mary felt under appreciated for the amount of work she did — her director not only didn’t share critical feedback necessary to complete the role, but also positive reinforcement that was so integral to Mary’s motivation and happiness at work! However, Mary also shares in the responsibility; not only did she avoid speaking to her director about being under appreciated, but she was also unaware of how she was pushing away her director and coworkers.

Looking back several months after our initial coaching session, the communication channels have been open and the air has cleared. Mary has a much better relationship with the others in the office and her director no longer feels uncomfortable about approaching her. She recently called me saying, “…to think that a few regular check-in conversations would have such a world of difference over the past several years…”