Sunday, June 20, 2010

You can deal with problem employees

“The tougher the job, the greater the reward.” ~George Allen

Problem employees are the bane of every manager’s existence. By “problem employee” I mean an individual whose behavior negatively affects the morale and operations of the entire business in a significant way. For some reason, every organization seems to have at least one of these. Examples of some problem behaviors I commonly see are as follows:

1. An employee just does not do what he or she is asked even after repeated requests.
2. An employee’s temper causes everyone to tip-toe around them in fear of inciting their anger.
3. An employee is habitually late.
4. An employee’s extreme negativity detracts from the business’ mission.

Whatever the problem behavior, there are two ways of dealing with it. One is to do nothing, and the other is to take action. However, in about 99 percent of cases, ignoring the problem only makes it worse. Why does this happen? In my opinion, it is because doing nothing and pretending the problem will go away on its own is tantamount to encouraging – even rewarding – the undesirable behavior.

You must also consider that allowing one employee’s bad behavior to persist destroys your credibility as a manager. Whether you acknowledge it or not, your entire staff knows that there is a problem, and when you do nothing, your staff wonders why you do not act. In the end, your inaction dilutes your effectiveness as a manager.

One firm that I was assisting had an employee that was habitually 15 to 30 minutes late. Sometimes the manager took corrective action, and sometimes he ignored the problem. When dealing with these less severe kinds of behavioral issues, consistency is critical. If employees perceive you or your policies to be inconsistent, your credibility will be non-existent, and problem behaviors will escalate.

Where more serious problems are concerned, you must address the issue no matter how important or valuable the employee is. No employee should become so valuable that you cannot do without him or her. The minute an employee becomes invaluable, you allow that employee to take you hostage. The goals and mission of the department must be given a higher priority than the welfare of one problem employee.

One effective way to approach a problem employee is to ascertain the real issue, then address it in a meeting. The sooner this meeting takes place, the more quickly the problem can be resolved.

Without exception, when a problem employee is removed, the morale of the entire business improves dramatically. While terminating employees is not a pleasant experience, the price is much higher when you allow a problem behavior to continue. Additionally, in so many cases, termination was exactly what that employee really wanted. They just did not have the courage to quit.

Problem employees affect every single staff member, and I guarantee you that your staff would rather work harder and longer than put up with bad behavior. They will all be willing to pitch in if it means their working environment will be improved.

Problem employees can have devastating affects on the morale of your entire department. By dealing quickly and fairly with these employees, you ensure that your business remains a wonderful place to work.

You can do this!

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