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Tips for Dealing with Problem Employees

Just about every business-owner or manager has to deal with a troublesome employee at some point.

Even after completing a thorough recruitment and onboarding process, you can still end up with a person who’s prickly to deal with, struggles to get along with others, flouts the company’s systems, or simply doesn’t care much about their performance.

The persistently problematic employee can cause a lot of disruption, especially in a small operation, contaminating the work environment, harming employee relations, inhibiting productivity, and even driving absenteeism and staff turnover.

So let’s look at the best ways to deal with those thorny team members:

  • Tackle the problem – dealing with a difficult employee is uncomfortable, but the matter needs to be addressed before it drags down the wider team’s wellbeing, morale, and performance.
  • Investigate – try to gain an objective understanding of the issues that could be causing or contributing to the person’s behaviour. Keep an open mind, challenge your own assumptions, and write down your findings so you can share them.
  • Meet – Request a meeting to discuss the situation openly and professionally. Be specific about the impact(s) of the person’s actions then give them the chance to respond. They may have suggestions on how to improve things or raise legitimate issues about conditions, training, or colleagues.
  • Devise a plan – work together on a clear, measurable plan to turn the negative behaviour into more positive action. It may involve changes, such as moving the employee to a different team, or providing assistance to sort out personal issues. Make sure they know what any consequences are, the time frame, and support their progress with regular review meetings.

Further action – usually, employees will want to turn things around, but if not, you’ll need to move onto more formal counselling and disciplinary action. Make sure the process is fair and transparent so you’ll be on firm legal ground if the person doesn’t change and you have no option but to terminate their employment.

Graham Burfielf
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