Dealing With a Problem Employee?

Having trouble with an employee who isn’t working out well? Don't jump straight to termination. Here are your next steps.

Dealing With a Problem Employee?

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If you manage people, you’re going to deal with it sooner or later: a worker who just seems to cause trouble, slack on the job, or sows discord among the rest of the staff. If possible, you’re better off working this out rather than terminating and having to pour resources into hiring and training someone new.

Dealing with a problem employee in your tactical business can be challenging, but there are several steps you can take to address the issue effectively. Here’s a general framework you can follow:

Identify the problem: Be sure you clearly define and understand the issue at hand. Is the employee consistently underperforming, exhibiting disruptive behavior, or causing conflicts within the team? Identifying the specific problem will help you determine the appropriate course of action.

Gather evidence: Collect objective evidence to support your assessment of the problem. This could include performance reviews, customer complaints, attendance records, or documented incidents. Objective evidence will help you address the issue more effectively and minimize potential bias.

Communicate openly: Schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss your concerns. Clearly communicate the observed problems, provide specific examples, and express how their behavior or performance is impacting the team or the organization. Maintain a professional and respectful tone during the conversation.

Listen and understand: Allow the employee to share their perspective on the issue — you might be surprised at what you learn. Actively listen to their concerns and challenges, as there could be underlying factors contributing to their behavior or performance. Demonstrating empathy and understanding can help build trust and encourage a more productive discussion.

Set expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations for improvement. Together with the employee, establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that address the problem areas. Ensure they understand the consequences of not meeting these expectations, including potential disciplinary actions.

Offer support: Determine if there are any resources, training or support systems that can assist the employee in improving their performance or behavior. Were they properly trained in the first place? Are they struggling to do a job without a specific tool that would make things easier? Provide them with access to these resources and discuss how they can utilize them effectively. Offer guidance and constructive feedback along the way.

Monitor progress: Regularly check in with the employee to monitor their progress. Provide ongoing feedback and support to help them stay on track. Recognize and acknowledge any improvements they make, as positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator.

Document everything: Keep detailed records of all conversations, warnings and actions taken. This documentation is crucial in case further disciplinary action is necessary or if you need to involve human resources or senior management.

Consider escalation: If the employee fails to improve despite your efforts, or if their behavior is severely impacting the team or the organization, you may need to escalate the issue. Consult with your human resources department or follow the established company policies to determine the appropriate course of action, which may include disciplinary measures or termination.

Remember, it’s important to approach these situations with fairness, consistency, and empathy. Every case is different, so it’s valuable to consult with your organization’s HR department (if you have one) or seek professional advice when necessary.


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