How to Deal With a Problem Employee

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Everyone likes it when things at the workplace are going smoothly and the employees are productive and efficient. It's easy to work when your employees are actually performing their jobs--but sometimes, there are those workers who become more of a liability than an asset. Training staff members requires time and money, and when it seems as if that investment isn't paying for itself, it might be difficult to address. Many employers have a hard time talking to problem employees about them not living up to their job responsibilities. Here are a few guidelines to help fix the problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Do not ignore the problem employee. The greatest mistake most supervisors make is to assume that an employee who is not performing at the level they should or is a disruption to others is having a bad day or week or month. The unfortunate reality is that not every staff member will be a winner. Some people need a little push, while others just need a swift kick in the hindquarters. Keep in mind that there are other associates that will see the performance of the problem employee and that may begin to affect their work as well. Stop the domino effect before it gets started and address the problem as soon as you become aware of it.

  • Decide whether the problem is training or attitude. Whether we like it or not, people have their own way of doing all sorts of different jobs. This is why many companies have a training program, but sometimes one or even two rounds of training are not enough. Some employees may just require further supervision as they perform their duties. However, when the problem is the employee's attitude about their job, then it's a little bit trickier. Retraining is easy if the person wants to do their job properly, but when you have a behavior issue, it could mean termination may be around the corner.

  • Take the employee aside and point out exactly what they have been doing wrong. Do not sugar coat the discussion. You hired this person to perform a task. If the problem is that they did not do their job to your standard, you need to tell them. It is your job to make sure they do their job properly, after all. Tell the employee what they did wrong and how they should correct it. If this, however, is not a performance issue but rather one of attitude, warn the staff member that their behavior is not going to be tolerated. Most companies have a human resources department that enforces policies which dictate acceptable behavior for all employees. Keep in mind that if it's a behavior that could lead to a crime (e.g. sexual harassment) you should have a witness present during the discussion.

  • Document the talk. Make sure that everything that you have discussed with the employee is written down. Use plan English when writing out why the employee is being reprimanded. Having the staff member sign the document proves that they know what the consequences of their actions can result in. This can all help protect you and the company if you have to go to Step 6.

  • Revisit the behavior at a later date. Do not let the employee think that it's a one-time reprimand. Always set a date on which you will check their progress in correcting the behavior. It's always easier if it is a process that needs correcting. Either the employee can do the job or not. Talk to the employee to get an impression as to whether or not they fully understand their job. If attitude is the problem, that will unfortunately require a repeat confrontation, sometimes even multiple offenses before you can move on to the next step.

  • Terminate employment. Hopefully you will not have to get to this point, but if you do, you want to be able to end the employee's service without detriment to you and the company. Firing an employee for something that is not their fault can result in the company having to pay for unemployment insurance, or in the worst case, getting sued. Always check with your human resources department if you have one. If not, your documented reprimands will come in handy if you have to protect yourself.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have to fire an employee, always have a witness. Remember, it is always personal for them, even if you think it's just business. Most people who are fired for attitude problems usually know it's going to happen and will lash out at you in some way. The employee who is terminated for performance issues usually handles it better if you were documenting their progress and there are no surprises. Treating employees as human being helps them to accept termination.

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