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Address Problem Employees Promptly

July 14, 2023
Take direct action with problem employees now to prevent worse damage

Take direct action with problem employees sooner than later or the damage will be worse than you think. 

Every business has problem employees at some point. These are the people who consistently underperform, cause conflict, or violate company policies. Much has been written on the many types of misbehavior that cause internal problems at organizations of all sizes. While it can be tempting to ignore addressing these issues, because of the inevitable conflict that will ensue, doing so can have serious consequences. Problem employees can damage morale, productivity, and customer satisfaction. 

The Damage Problem Employees Can Cause 

Problem employees can cause a lot of damage to a business. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Reduced productivity – Problem employees often take longer to complete tasks, make more mistakes, and/or require more supervision and mitigation of consequences of their problem behavior. This leads to a decrease in productivity for the entire team. Ignoring it won’t make the problem go away. 
  • Damaged morale – Problem employees can also damage morale for other employees. When employees see that a problem employee is not being held accountable, it can lead to a decrease in morale for everyone and all too often, you lose your best people and keep those who just don’t care. It’s a race to the bottom. 
  • Lost customers – Problem employees can also damage customer satisfaction. If customers have a bad experience with a problem employee, they are absolutely less likely to do business with the company in the future – and they most likely will not tell you about it. They will just go somewhere else. This is the silent killer. You don’t even know why the business left. Think about times you’ve chosen not to do business somewhere you had a bad experience.  
  • Increased costs – Problem employees can also increase direct and indirect costs for a business. This can include the cost of lost productivity, the cost of training new employees, and the cost of legal fees if the problem employee sues the company (or someone else does because of the problem employee). Problem employees usually leave a wake. 

Why It’s Important to Take Action 

It’s important to take action with problem employees sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more damage they can cause. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to take action: 

  • To protect your business – By taking action, you can help to protect your business from these damages. 
  • To protect your other employees – You want to keep your star performers and loyal employees. 
  • To protect yourself – If you don’t take action, you may be held liable for the actions of the problem employee. By taking action, you can help to protect yourself (and your company) from legal liability. Think Bud Light. 

How to Take Action 

If you have a problem employee, there are a few things you can do to take action: 

  1. Document the problem – The first step is to document the problem. This includes keeping track of any incidents, complaints, or performance issues. 
  2. Meet with the employee – Once you have documented the problem, you should meet with the employee to discuss the issue as soon as possible. The first meeting should be held in private, (unless you need HR or another party present to ensure there is a record of exactly what was said) and should be a constructive conversation. 
  3. Set clear expectations – During the meeting, you should set clear expectations for the employee. This includes what specific things they need to do or change, to improve their performance; and what the consequences will be if they do not improve. 
  4. Follow up – After the meeting, follow up with the employee to make sure they are meeting the expectations you set. If they are not, you may need to take further action, such as issuing a written warning or terminating their employment. 
  5. Maintenance/Resolution – if things get back on track, great! But don’t drop the ball, stay attuned to this situation and check in frequently. It is all too common for bad behavior to re-emerge when the pressure is off. If things don’t improve, the only resolution is termination. Don’t keep the problem on board and hope it will go away. 

Hiring Tips 

The best way to avoid problem employees is to hire the right people in the first place. Here are a few hiring tips to help you avoid problem employees: 

  • Do your research – Before you hire someone, be sure to do your research. As discussed in a previous article (link to article about not relying on one method) use multiple assessment methods to ensure a consistent comprehensive view.  
  • Ask the right questions – During the interview process, be sure to ask questions from multiple angles, about their experience, their skills, and their personality. 
  • Trust your gut – If you have a bad feeling about someone, don’t hire them. There are more fish in the sea.  

Problem employees can be a serious problem for businesses of all sizes. From shop floor operators to the C suite, problem children exist at all levels of the organization. Many times executive level problems are just stealthier and hidden behind a corporate gloss. By taking action sooner rather than later, you can help to protect your business, your employees, and yourself. 

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