I was afraid that Tim was suffering from the dreaded Prima Donna Syndrome. I reviewed his symptoms:

  • Tim felt many daily tasks were other people's responsibility. He hated working the front counter and always looked for someone else to handle his paperwork.
  • Tim was often late. The store manager frequently would have to cover the counter for him on days he was scheduled to be there.
  • Tim angered his co-workers with his condescending remarks and his lack of interest in helping out. He was not a team player.
  • These symptoms are common in two varieties of Prima Donna Syndrome (PDS), so I now had to determine if Tim's case was the simple-to-treat Type I, which is accompanied by a dismal sales record as a result of his poor attitude, or the dreaded Type II, which afflicts top producers. I analyzed Tim's behavior more thoroughly:

  • While it was true that Tim despised many of the daily store functions and procedures, he wasn't idle or lazy. His nose was usually buried in a blueprint doing a takeoff or an estimate. And while he rarely completed his paperwork to the satisfaction of our bookkeeper, his job files were kept in meticulous order.
  • While he was often late in the morning, Tim had no trouble working late. He would book appointments at whatever time was convenient for his contractor customer or the contractor's client.
  • While Tim had a bad rapport with his colleagues, his reputation with his customers was sterling.
  • His sales figures were excellent. He always met quota and frequently was the sales leader.
  • Clearly Tim had Type II PDS, and the treatment for this affliction can be difficult because it typically involves some or all of the following procedures:

  • Therapy sessions for management. Managers will have to balance the negative effects of the inflicted employee's behavior and attitude toward co-workers with the positive effects of the employee's contribution to profitability. This balancing act can take its toll.
  • Careful prescriptions of coffee, lunch, and even dinners with the employee to talk about what it means to be a member of a team. Discuss the entrepreneurial, will-do attitude that your company hopes to foster. Subliminally impose a need to change his or her attitude in the workplace.
  • Therapeutic accounting. Place full responsibility for the employee's business actions on his or her shoulders, such as using a full commission pay plan. If the person believes his or her way is the only right way, let that employee back up this attitude by putting personal finances at stake.
  • Isolation treatment. In some severe cases, management may decide the contagious nature of the PDS has put the health of the entire organization at risk. Hence, quarantine by sending the employee to a remote territory may be required.
  • Cutting the ties. If the positive sales contributions made by the employee can be easily replaced then, unfortunately, termination of employment may be the best answer.
  • We were lucky with Tim. Careful use of the first four treatments has made him a valuable (and tolerable) part of the team. But we had a case a few years ago that didn't go as well. Mary was severely afflicted with Prima Donna Syndrome Type II. When she didn't respond to any treatment, we had to consider termination. But then an experimental procedure presented itself: She received an offer from another company out of our area. When we didn't counter, the outbreak was eradicated.

    Tad Troilo is a manager for Cranmer's Kitchens by Design in Yardley, Pa. 215.493.8600. E-mail: TadNT@aol.com