Managing Problem Employees: 11 Strategies Shared by Business Leaders
Dealing with a problem employee is a challenge every manager must face. The negative impact of one bad employee can be felt by the entire staff. However, the Center for Creative Leadership suggests that confronting these employees about their behavior can lead to positive outcomes for both you and your company. In fact, leaders who consistently address problem employees tend to achieve better team performance overall.
To help you navigate this situation effectively, a group of business leaders share their best strategies for managing problem employees. Here are 11 approaches that can make a difference:
1. Understand the root causes and design solutions: When dealing with problem employees, it’s crucial to identify any circumstances at work or in their personal life that may contribute to their behavior. By understanding the underlying problem, you can work with the employee to develop targeted solutions for improvement. For example, one leader shares how they successfully addressed a merger-related insecurity issue in an older gentleman, which resulted in his promotion and retention.
2. Implement the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) strategy: To get to the heart of the issue, leaders should engage in informal conversations with problem employees. The SBI strategy involves discussing the specific situation, reminding the employee of their behavior, and explaining the impact it had on individuals and the team. This approach encourages open communication and allows the employee to share their perspective and concerns.
3. Hold regular one-on-one meetings: Regular meetings between managers and problem employees provide an opportunity for consistent feedback, addressing concerns, setting clear expectations, and offering personalized coaching. This approach fosters open communication, builds trust, and creates a supportive environment where employees feel motivated to improve.
4. Identify and address performance and behavior issues: Managers should first identify the root cause of problem behavior. If it relates to job performance, addressing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and developing an action plan can help employees adjust and improve their performance. If the issue is behavior-related, managers need to consider core value alignment and address any negative impact on the employer brand or colleagues.
5. Provide quick and clear feedback: When an employee is not meeting expectations or causing problems, prompt and clear communication is crucial. Clearly stating the problem and desired behavior ensures that employees understand exactly what needs to change. Addressing the issue promptly prevents it from escalating over time.
6. Adopt empathy and understand the emotional landscape: Understanding the emotional landscape of problem employees is essential. By adopting a posture of empathy and genuinely desiring to understand the root causes of their behavior, managers can solve problematic situations quickly. Focusing on clear and open communication helps prevent further incidents.
7. Set boundaries from the beginning: When dealing with problem employees, it’s important to establish boundaries early on. By clearly communicating expectations and not allowing disruptive behavior, managers can prevent future chaos and maintain a positive work environment. If boundaries are crossed, appropriate action should be taken.
8. Foster open dialogue and receptivity: Managers should be genuinely receptive to feedback from problem employees. Active and unbiased listening can shed light on organizational issues and make employees feel valued. Simply being heard often leads to favorable changes in behavior and attitude.
9. Combine reprimands with personal coaching: Managers can effectively handle problem employees by incorporating both formal reprimands and personalized coaching. Instead of relying solely on punitive measures, a tailored approach that includes directive communication and positive motivation can guide employees toward improvement. For example, combining guidance, resources, and motivation can result in significant improvements in areas such as punctuality.
10. Take proactive action early: A proactive approach can help managers address problem employees more effectively. By thoroughly screening candidates and addressing any potential issues before hiring, managers can avoid problematic employees from the start. Additionally, being vigilant for early signs of a problem enables managers to provide timely feedback and intervention.
11. Foster honest communication and understanding: By engaging in open and honest conversations, managers can establish a safe environment where problem employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and working towards solutions. One-on-one discussions can help managers gain insights into difficulties and perspectives, leading to collaborative problem-solving.
Effectively managing problem employees is essential for maintaining a positive work environment and achieving better team performance. By understanding the root causes, establishing clear communication, providing feedback, and offering personalized coaching, managers can guide problem employees toward improvement and foster a more productive and harmonious workplace.