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