How to Manage Problem Employees in Your Small Business
No one wants to work with difficult people, and in a small office environment it can be especially challenging. The company and everyone involved loses when problem employees don’t embrace the leadership vision and company direction.
Worse yet are the problems that occur when a difficult employee doesn’t follow the company’s ethical guidelines. Productivity and morale drop and everyone is frustrated. Employees and managers end up wasting time giving feedback to that person, and wasting even more time trying to help everyone else on the team work together and get along.
This toxicity can impact your entire team, and if this difficult employee recruits like-minded employees, the poison can spread and infect your business, leading to performance issues, customer service concerns, product defects, and potential legal action if wrongdoing or ethical violations are involved.
You need to nip any issues with difficult employees in the bud. Here are some best practice tips:
1. Don’t ignore the problem and hope it will correct itself.
Get in front of the problem. As with any ethics issue, managing a difficult employee needs prompt and thorough attention to correct the problem. In the best case scenario, the employee simply needs a “reset,” with a direct and comprehensive reminder of what the company’s value system expects of all employees.
Assuming that the difficult employee’s work product is valuable to the company, and he or she possesses some redeeming qualities, you owe it to this employee, your other employees, and your company to try to correct the issues causing the employee to be difficult. It could be that the employee has no clue that he or she is being difficult or that the behavior is negatively impacting the team. When the issue is addressed, then the employee has to make the choice to either correct the problem or leave the organization.
2. Address the problem behavior or performance, and never attack the employee.
Describe the unacceptable behavior or performance in detail to the employee and give examples, especially if the employee is unaware. Tell the employee why that behavior or performance is a problem, how it is impacting others in the company, and what new behaviors you expect the employee to adopt.
3. Allow the employee to react and respond to your feedback.
If the employee refuses to believe what you’re saying, even with your descriptions of the facts, then work towards agreement that others (including you) believe that the problem exists and that the employee must change his or her current method of operating.
4. Coach the employee.
It’s important that the employee understand that these negative behaviors or performance are impacting others in the company, and work with him or her to begin using more acceptable and appropriate behaviors. Give the employee time to work on these new suitable behaviors and provide feedback regarding progress.
5. If your efforts fail, then move the employee out of the organization.
Timing will depend on the employee’s reaction to your discussion. If the employee continues to deny that his or her performance or behavior is inappropriate and refuses to try to improve the situation, then document your discussions and move quickly towards termination of employment in line with your company policies and practices.
If the employee is earnestly trying to improve, then work with the employee, and document discussions and performance improvement. If the effort or the results are not sufficient, then manage the employee out of the organization consistent with your company policies and practices.
Other employees in the company will be watching how you manage this difficult employee to correct the problem. When these types of sensitive issues are managed well, it becomes a lesson in managing behaviors ethically and professionally with you as the company leader “walking the talk” about your company values, ethics, and culture.
Patty Block, President and Founder of The Block Group, established her company to advocate for women-owned businesses, helping them position their companies for strategic growth. From improving cash flow…. to increasing staff productivity…. to scaling for growth, these periods of transition — and so many more — provide both challenges and opportunities. Managed effectively, change can become a productive force for growth. The Block Group harnesses that potential, turning roadblocks into building blocks for women-owned businesses.