Problem employees. Every manager has or will have to deal with them. Managers need to understand that a negative employee is not just a problem between them and that employee. The air of dissent affects everyone who’s around it. Even though dealing with “problem employees” isn’t a favorite task for most managers, it’s part of the job. You will have to deal with the employee, and better sooner than later.
The unfortunate thing is, most managers get held hostage to these folks, spending a disproportionate amount of time, thought and emotional energy on them. Often hovering on the verge of letting them go for years, but never quite being able (for a variety of reasons) to pull the trigger.
Here are five tips that great managers do when confronted with a difficult employee – things that keep them from getting sucked into an endless vortex of ineffectiveness and frustration:
1. Don’t Ignore the Problem
No one enjoys confrontation, but allowing a difficult employee to wreak havoc on your workplace is bad for business. A problem employee can lower morale and productivity in your office. If they’re interacting with your clients they could even lead to loss of business. Don’t ignore the problem and let it get worse.
2. Give Feedback
You may complain about your problem employee all the time, but do they know what they’re doing wrong or what they should do differently? It’s never fun to give critical feedback, but great managers learn how to do it well and actually follow through. Give your problem employees specific information they need to improve and let them know what an improvement would look like.
3. Be Consistent
If you say you’re not OK with a behavior, don’t sometimes be OK with it. Employees look to see what you do more than what you say. If, for instance, you tell employees that it’s critical they submit a certain report by a certain time, and then you’re sometimes upset and sometimes not upset when they don’t do it…the less-good employees generally won’t do it. Pick your shots – only set standards you’re actually willing to hold to – and then hold to them.
4. Set Consequences…And Stick to Them
If you’ve let your employee know what they need to do, but you’re still seeing no improvement, it’s time to get very specific. Lay out your expectations on a timeline and set the consequences for not following through. For example, you could say, “I still believe you can turn this around. Here’s what turning it around would look like. If I don’t see an improvement by this date then here’s what will happen (i.e. you’ll be fired or you’ll be put on probation, etc.).
5. Document Everything
Many managers have a difficult time letting problem employees go because they have no record of his or her bad behavior. Whenever you’re having significant problems with an employee, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Write down the key points or put it through the proper channels in your organization. All too often a lack of documentation arises out of misplaced hopefulness; managers don’t want to be ‘too negative’ about the employee, as if it would all magically go away if they didn’t write it down. But good managers know that documentation isn’t negative – it’s prudent. Remember, if you’re able to solve the problem, you can just breathe a sigh of relief and put your documentation in the back of the drawer.
Don’t allow problem employees to disrupt your business. Problem employees don’t just affect their managers, they affect the morale in the office, the productivity of their peers, and ultimately, your business’s bottom line.