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Dealing with a problem employee is something every manager will face at some point. The negative impact of one bad employee on the rest of your staff can be significant. However, confronting the problem employee about their unacceptable behavior can lead to better outcomes for you and your company, according to the Center for Creative Leadership. In fact, consistently addressing problem employees tends to result in better overall team performance. To discover the most effective ways to manage problem employees, we have gathered insights from 11 business leaders who share their best strategies.
1. Identify root causes and develop solutions
When dealing with problem employees, it is crucial to understand the circumstances at work or in their lives that may contribute to their behavior. Often, there is an underlying problem affecting their behavior and performance. By identifying the problem, you can work collaboratively with the employee to design solutions for improvement. For example, by recognizing that an older gentleman felt insecure in his position after a merger, a manager was able to provide support and help him achieve a promotion.
2. Implement the Situation-Behavior-Impact strategy
To effectively address issues with problem employees, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Most people don’t deliberately choose to be problematic; there is usually an underlying struggle. Engage in informal conversations with the employee, using a strategy called Situation-Behavior-Impact. Discuss the specific situations where the unwanted behavior occurred, remind them of the behavior, and explain the impact it had on individuals and the team. By empathetically understanding their perspective and concerns, you can open up communication and work towards resolving the issue.
3. Hold regular one-on-one meetings
Regular one-on-one meetings can be an effective strategy for managing problem employees. By providing consistent feedback, addressing concerns, and setting clear expectations, you foster open communication and build trust. This approach allows for personalized coaching, support, and identification of any underlying issues that may contribute to the employee’s behavior. Through targeted assistance, employees can overcome challenges and thrive within the organization.
4. Identify and address performance and behavior issues
To effectively manage problem employees, start by identifying the actual problem. If the issue relates to performance, address the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are not being met and develop an action plan for improvement. If there is no change in behavior, take decisive action such as implementing formal performance improvement plans or considering termination. If the problem is related to behavior that is not aligned with core values, it is important to address it within the context of employment and integrate core values into the employee lifecycle processes.
5. Provide prompt and clear feedback
When an employee is not performing well or causing problems, it is crucial to address the issue promptly. Clear and direct communication is key. Clearly state the problem and the desired behavior, ensuring that the employee understands what they are doing wrong and how they can improve. Immediate intervention prevents the problem from escalating and demonstrates your commitment to resolving issues and improving employee performance.
6. Foster empathy and understand the emotional landscape
Understanding the emotional landscape of problem employees is essential. Adopting empathy and genuinely seeking to understand the drivers behind their behavior can help resolve problematic situations. Rather than focusing solely on the disruptive actions, dig deeper to identify root causes such as personal issues or skill gaps. By acknowledging their perspective and engaging in clear and open communication, you can effectively manage problem employees and prevent further incidents.
7. Set boundaries from the beginning
Establishing clear boundaries from the beginning is essential when dealing with problem employees. If they tend to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior, it is important to draw the line early on. Allowing them to continue causing chaos or being rude will only make it more difficult to address the issue later. By ensuring they understand the expectations and consequences from the outset, you can create a healthy work environment.
8. Encourage open dialogue and receptivity
Dealing with problem employees often involves being receptive to feedback. Difficult behavior may stem from an employee’s experiences or perceptions of the workplace. Actively listen without bias when employees voice their concerns to address potential organizational issues. This conveys that their opinions matter and may spark positive changes in their behavior. Honest communication fosters a better understanding between managers and employees.
9. Combine reprimands with personal coaching
Developing an individualized approach to managing problem employees is important. Instead of relying solely on reprimands, supplement them with personal coaching and mentoring. Directive communication combined with positive motivation can guide employees towards improvement. For instance, providing guidance and resources to an employee struggling with punctuality while emphasizing the importance of accountability in the workplace can lead to significant improvements.
10. Take proactive action early
Being proactive is crucial for effectively managing problem employees. Before hiring new employees, proactively scan for any issues to minimize the chances of hiring problematic individuals. Once hired, be vigilant for early signs and clues that may indicate potential problems. Providing timely feedback and addressing concerns before they escalate can prevent further issues from arising in the future.
11. Foster honest communication and understanding
Creating an open and honest communication environment is an effective method for handling employees facing challenges. Engage in one-on-one conversations to gain an understanding of their difficulties and perspectives. By actively listening and providing feedback, you create a safe space where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns. This approach often leads to collaboration and effective problem-solving.
By implementing these strategies, you can effectively manage problem employees and improve overall team performance within your organization.