Article: How to deal with problem employees

Employee Relations

How to deal with problem employees

Tackling problem behavior is a big challenge, but it can be achieved deftly
How to deal with problem employees

A manager once wrote:

“I manage a four-person team. One of my staff members is incredibly hard to work with. She’s negative,

combative and resistant to feedback and direction and doesn’t get along with the rest of the team. But

her work is good and so I don’t have grounds for letting her go. What’s the best way to approach

managing a high performer who’s bad on “soft skills”?”

Here are tips to deal with problem employees.

Use your Judgement

Problem behaviour issues could range from minor matters such as poor timekeeping to work related

problems such as being rude to colleagues, anger management issues, shouting and yelling at

customers, bullying and harassment. It is better to use your judgement in handling such cases. There is

no one-size- fits-all kind of a solution. Get to the root cause of the matter before looking for a solution.

Do not jump to conclusions

When a problem appears, it is prudent to get a complete or a 360-degree view of the matter. For

example, it might make sense to speak to the problem employee’s peers, subordinates, clients and

customers before jumping to any conclusions and making a decision. Sometimes the truth could be

stranger than fiction. Things are never what they appear to be. There could be an illness, stress, death,

a divorce, bullying, harassment or a major upheaval in the employee’s life, both within and outside the

workplace that might be causing the bad behaviour. It is therefore very important not to make any

assumptions, particularly if the employee’s behaviour is out of character.

Do not deal with matters in Anger

It is said that once words are spoken, they can never be recalled. If an angry situation is created, it is

better to take a deep breath and step away from the scene. Do whatever it takes to get hold of your

emotions. Take a walk around the block, talk to a friend and get it out of your system or have a cup of

coffee. Once things settle down and some time has passed, it would make sense to look for a solution

and deal with the matter. Anger heightens emotions. Calmness gives one the ability to look at things in

an objective and professional manner. In extreme cases, it even makes one wonder what the fuss and

anger was all about.

Confront the matter head-on

By putting your head in the sand or closing your eyes, you cannot hope for the problem to go away or

sort itself out automatically. Deal with the matter head-on. Do not procrastinate and make the matter

even worse than it was before. It could also have damaging repercussions on the employee, the team or

even the company at large. Affecting the morale of the team, causing friction, pushing good employees

away and reducing the quality of work are not things that you want to see happening.

Analytical Behaviour

Rely on factual information and direct observations rather than hearsay, vague generalizations and

subjective opinions.

Be professional, clear-headed and unemotional while dealing with problem situations or problem

employees. This kind of behaviour on your part would go a long way in gaining the respect of your


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Topics: Employee Relations

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