Let boss handle bratty subordinate

One of my employees consistently disregards my instructions. We work in a retail store, and "Jesse" is a cashier. Jesse frequently violates company policy by texting and playing games on his phone when he doesn't have customers. He also takes long breaks and wanders away from his register.

Because I don't have authority to issue disciplinary warnings, I asked my boss to talk with Jesse. Jesse apparently said he ignores me because I talk down to him and treat him like a child. My manager now says that when Jesse is out of line, I should only correct him once. If he fails to respond, I'm supposed to call my boss and let him handle it.

Although I agreed to try this approach, I believe this disrespectful employee should simply be told to follow my directions and do his job like everyone else. What should I do about this situation?

The short answer is that you should honor your manager's request, because any other response will only get you in trouble. And while I agree that backing you up would be better than taking over, this strategy may eventually work in your favor. The key is to follow your boss's directions to the letter.

When Jesse fails to comply with an instruction, do not say another word. Just quietly call your manager and transfer the problem to him. Before long, one of two things is likely to happen: Jesse will clean up his act to avoid seeing your boss, or your manager will lose patience and begin corrective action. Either way, your problem is solved.

To improve your own supervisory skills, however, you should heed Jesse's complaint that you "talk down to him and treat him like a child." When addressing performance issues, managers can easily slip into a condescending, parental mode. But since lectures seldom work, a professional, businesslike approach is usually more effective.

Marie G. McIntyre, a workplace coach, is the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.