Most employees go to their jobs everyday with the intent of doing their best work within a culture that they feel comfortable being a part of.
But for a variety of different reasons, that can range from the justified to the irrational, an employees’ dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger spills over into the workplace in ways that can negatively affect the morale and productivity of co-workers and management.
What is the best approach to take when dealing with a problem employee?
1. Confront the employee as soon as the inappropriate situation occurs.
If you are not sure of how to handle your employee issue because you need more time to investigate or to think about the consequences, make it clear to the employee that you have serious concerns about their behavior and that you’d like to meet with them to discuss the issue. Schedule a time to meet with the employee later in the day or first thing in the morning.
2. Meet with your employee in private. Make them aware of the behaviors that you and others have observed. Be clear as to why the behavior is inappropriate and the impact that the behavior has on productivity and morale.
3. Clearly communicate to your employee that the problem behavior has to stop immediately. Tell them what the future consequences will be if the behavior does not change.
4. When appropriate, listen to your employees’ perspective. Ask questions like, “Why did you think it was appropriate to yell at your co-worker?” Or, “Why didn’t you come to me if you were frustrated instead of slamming a chair against the wall?” Finding out what is frustrating your employee can help you address any unfounded issues, concerns or fears that may have led to the behavior. Sometimes your response to their concerns is all that is needed to turn the behavior around.
Based on the severity of the situation, you may not need to get your employee’s perspective and you should swiftly take action to discipline your employee.
5. If the issue rises to the level of further action, let your employee know when you meet with him or her that the issue is serious and that you are contemplating some type of disciplinary action. This is important even if you have not made a decision yet as to how to handle the situation. Tell them that you will get back to them with your decision and then follow up as quickly as possible; ideally on the same day as your meeting.
6. After your investigation, determine whether the infraction warrants some type of disciplinary action such as a warning, suspension, or termination based on the severity of the behavior. Refer to your company’s policies on how to deal with inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Be sure to consider what you have done in past situations so that you are treating staff consistently. If you don’t have an employee conduct policy, it’s important to develop one and then disseminate the policy to your staff.
7. Document the behavior in writing including your expectations of the employee. The document should also include what your final decision is on how you will address the issue.
8. If you determine that the behavior rises to the level of termination, it’s a best management practice, and the law in some states, to make sure that you have your employees’ last paycheck delivered to them on the day of termination. The paycheck should include all time worked through their last day. Some states require that you also pay out any unused vacation time.
Check with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for your particular state for more information.
9. Remember that it is important to keep the details relating to employee issues confidential. Only discuss details with those in management who are directly involved in the resolution of the issue, or who have a need to know, such as Human Resources, or the president of the company for example.
10. Don’t do it alone! Handling difficult employee situations can be very draining and can cause you to question your ability to manage and lead staff. Have a support system in place to help you deal with the range of emotions tied to working though difficult workplace issues.
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