How to Deal with Problem Employees

November 25, 2015

5:11 pm

There’s always that one person.

Regardless of how good a job you do of screening potential employees for your business, it’s virtually impossible to know with absolute certainty which job applicants are going to be a good fit until you hire them and take some time to get to know them and see how they perform. There’s only so much that background checks can tell us, after all. And since most people put on their “game face” for interviews, it’s impossible to weed out bad apples by asking them a few canned questions during a brief meeting. It’s inevitable then that a few toxic people are eventually going to be hired on at the companies we run.

There are several different types of problem employees. Some are lazy and simply won’t do their jobs. Others stir up trouble amongst the other employees by lying, backstabbing, gossiping, or otherwise being difficult people to be around. And some employees even steal merchandise, office supplies, or other items from the business.

Just because a problem employee has infiltrated your business doesn’t mean you have to put up with all of the problems associated with keeping that person on your payroll. Here are steps you can take to deal with the problem and put an end to the shenanigans a problem employee causes:

1. Recognize You Have A Problem

When you have a problem employee, it’s sometimes easy to just pretend the problem doesn’t exist, especially if you don’t see or interact with the problem employee on a regular basis. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Not so fast. Just because you may have limited contact with a problem employee, this doesn’t mean that person is not doing damage to your business. In fact, sometimes the most damage is done when the boss isn’t looking.

The first step in dealing with a problem employee is to recognize you have a problem you are going to have to deal with. No sweeping it under the rug. No ignoring it with hopes that it will fix itself. You’ve got a problem and you are going to have to be the one to deal with it.

2. Don’t Befriend Your Employees

Managers sometimes become attached to their employees, even the ones that are causing problems. Sometimes they even become good friends. Perhaps you even do things with your employees of the weekends or after work. But is befriending an employee a good idea?

When you really get to know an employee, it can be especially difficult to deal with a problem if or when it arises. Because of this, it’s never a good idea to befriend an employee. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to keep your distance from those you supervise or avoid all casual interactions with them. Just remember to keep things professional at all times and avoid developing friendships or attachments.

3. Don’t Let the Situation Fester

Do you remember getting a little scrape as a child and putting a Band-Aid on it? And then later you discovered that it hurt really bad when you tried to take the Band-Aid off by slowly pealing it off? Most of us discovered at an early age that the best way to remove a Band-Aid is to quickly rip it off. It minimizes the pain. Likewise, if you have a situation with a problem employee, don’t let the situation fester, address it as quickly as possible before the situation gets worse.

4. Address the Situation

Have a meeting with your problem employee where you talk about the problem(s) that employee is causing. Be sure the employee knows that his or her actions or behaviors are unacceptable. If you are feeling generous, you can give the employee a chance to improve. Make it known though that there are limits to your tolerance and that if the situation continues, it will result in termination.

5. The Terminator

If the problem continues, you have no choice but to terminate the employee. Terminating an employee is never a pleasant experience, but sometimes it must be done.

6. Find a Replacement

Replace the terminated employee as quickly as possible, taking steps to make sure you don’t end up with an employee who will repeat the problem by asking relevant interview questions.

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Alex Vanover is a life-long motorcycle enthusiast who enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson as often as the weather, his job, and his family will allow. His writing focuses on the automotive industry, renewable energy, and matters of sustainability in business. He is also the purveyor of the popular bike trading site: Motorcycle Trading Post.

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