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The Best Way To Deal With A Problem Employee

Dealing With A Problem Employee

At some point in your career as a manager, you are going to come across a difficult employee. They come in all shapes and sizes. They could be negligent of their duties, they could stir the office pot every chance they get, they could be a bully, or they could be absent more than they are there. Whatever form your problem employee takes, you are going to have to deal with them. So we have put together our recommendation on the steps you take.

Don’t let a problem employee suck all of the time out of your week. There is a solution to their antics, you just need to find what works for the individual. These are the steps you can follow to tackle the situation…

1: Observe

If you hear complaints about an employee, it is important to investigate the claims and not fall prey to office gossip. Don’t let yourself be biased and objectively observe the situation.
Here is what you should do…      

  • Speak to the people involved in the situation for their feedback
  • Observe the employee in different settings and with different people. It may simply be a personality clash or frustration with a certain task
  • Look for behaviours that cause stress or make the work environment toxic
  • Observe how other employees respond to the problem staff member
  • Identify the one or two behaviours that are causing complaints
  • Take into account that everyone can have a bad day or a bad week, so the problem behaviour can’t only be assessed over one day.

2: Make A Plan

After you have observed the issues and justified the claims, then it is time to work out how you will deal with it. Decide how the situation should be handled…

  • Support or Coaching: Providing a supportive environment to help your employee work through a specific issue affecting their work.
  • Counselling: Solving problem behaviours with a cause and effect approach. Explaining there are consequences for the behaviour and a devising a plan for addressing those behaviours.
  • Training: Filling gaps in your employee’s knowledge and helping them to upskill to the level you need them to be at.
  • Discipline: A formal disciplinary process that could result in verbal or written warnings, or even dismissal.

Thinking about where you want the situation to end up will prepare you for the next steps.

3: Discuss It

Once you have a clear picture of the situation and an idea of how you want to handle it, it’s time to address the employee directly. Yes it will be awkward, but it needs to be done. Otherwise the problem will never be solved, and ignoring it could make it worse.

Ensure that you follow correct procedures by notifying the employee of the meeting ahead of time and allowing them to have a support person with them. The objective of this meeting is to openly discuss things, not to make judgements or to score points on each other. It gives the employee an opportunity to respond to the claims and explain their side.

Focus on the negative behaviour as opposed to making it a personal attack. Remember that the employee’s behaviour might not be caused by anger or malice. There might be a lack of understanding, a fear, confusion, or a external personal situation.

4: Devise A Solution

To devise a solution that is going to work, you need to be sure of the cause of the behaviour. Ask your employee open ended questions that will let them freely talk about the situation. Listen carefully to their responses and make sure you understand fully before concluding the meeting. Remain calm and positive throughout the proceedings as negativity will not help.

If it is appropriate to do so, talk about a solution with the employee. The best result of a meeting is to come up with a joint solution. So, both discuss the desired outcome and how you are going to get there. The employee will need to understand that their behaviour is inappropriate and how they can adjust their approach.

5: Plan For Follow Up

Some issues can be resolved with one simple discussion. But some are more serious and will require a follow up plan to keep you both on track. Your follow up plan should encourage continuous improvement as opposed to an instant solution.

This is also a time to evaluate whether it is a problem you can deal with alone. Sometimes you will require outside mediation, or you might need to refer them for specialised help.

Finally, you will need to recognise when you have done all that you can. If the employee is not willing to change their behaviour, or there is a true clash, then it may be time to explore dismissal.

At the end of the day, dealing with a problem employee is never going to be a fun situation. However, it is one that you must tackle with strength and professionalism to keep your team strong and productive. If you have any concerns in dealing with a problem employee, then get in touch with us at Cloud My Staff. We are experts in handling all things staff related.