Small Business Brief


How to Deal With Problem Employees: The Only Guide You Need

When a company has employees that are problems to work with, it can create a hostile work environment that drains productivity. Some general categories of behaviors exhibited by problem employees include bullying, gossiping, insolence and insubordination.

Managers and business owners must deal with employees who violate company rules or engage in some type of misbehavior. However, dealing with problem employees can be stressful and awkward. To demonstrate leadership, employers need to deal with problem employees directly and discuss behavioral and performance issues.

Below are actionable tips for dealing with problem employees.

Verify Reports

Workplace gossip isn’t the best source of information about problem employees. If you know very little about the person in question, start talking to them so they are at ease when speaking with you. This is a crucial part of finding the truth.

You might not want to jump right into a discussion about work difficulties or personal problems with someone who isn’t comfortable talking with you. This may not be the right way for identifying the problem. Although it may take you several conversations before bringing up the issues, it’s often worth it. 

Take time to assess and reflect on the problems. This will help you determine what you need or expect your employees to do to bridge the gap between their behavior and the business’s expectations. This may help you figure out and design an appropriate course of action. 

Listen to Them

Oftentimes, when employees are a problem in the workplace, people rarely pay attention to them. A good number of managers become irritated and lose hope in the employee. Some turn their attention to other things out of a combination of self-protection and avoidance. 

While you might want to decide on what to think about problem employees, it’s always good practice to pay attention to someone who’s not doing well. You can start by arranging for a private conversation with them.

Your best shot at solving the situation lies in having a clear understanding of what’s going on. Difficult employees may start behaving differently once they realize they’re being heard. This may include accommodating a problematic employee’s point of view.

You may find out about real issues (that need to be addressed) that aren’t a tough employee’s fault.

Implement Preventative Training 

Continuous preventive training can lay the foundation for employees to recognize their behavioral expectations. It also helps employers to be ready to act when workers fall short of those expectations.

Most businesses these days include civility training for all employees. These trainings often include components like business etiquette, diversity awareness and cultural sensitivity.

Facilitating goal-oriented teamwork activities can encourage better understanding between employees. Workplace testing modules provide a great way to help co-workers understand that they may have different tendencies and different work styles. This helps them find ways to interact with each other better.

In most cases, the understanding that one’s own behaviors and style are just as efficient as a co-worker’s opposite tendencies and style can help diffuse previously frustrating interactions. You can create a less hostile work environment in general with these types of workshops.

Critique Behavior, Not Employees

It’s important that you don’t make communication too emotional or personal. The aim is to find a solution to a workplace problem yet not to ignite a confrontation. To achieve this, it’s important to concentrate specifically on undesirable or inappropriate behavior a worker has demonstrated and not attacking them personally.

While there might be harmful intentions behind their unacceptable actions, it could have stemmed from fear, confusion or personal issues that you know little about. 

Create a Solution Together

The end goal of engaging with problem employees is an agreed-upon solution. Talk about specific goals with the employee and be sure to monitor their input.

If possible, let the employees decide goals for themselves. This provides them with a stake in their own transformation process. It’s also a good way to know if they’re interested in improving. 

Follow Through

After uncovering an employee’s issues, having a conversation and implementing a customized plan, you need to step back and monitor the worker’s progress. Establish feasible and measurable targets and time frame for completing them. The key is that the employee and the manager agree upon a concrete goal and timeline.

Also, how often you monitor their progress should be tailored to the activity. If the unacceptable behavior continues, then you should consider executing a disciplinary action. Depending on the severity of the misdemeanor, an employee could be transferred to a different business unit or department.

Then again, transfers aren’t the best ways on how to deal with problem employees. In persistent or more extreme cases, terminating an employee may be the right course of action.

As you evaluate your employee’s performance, you may as well consider the kind of support you should provide. You can help the difficult worker get back on track and become better in the areas they’re lagging in. Research professional development resources.

Also, you may want to link them up with training that could be useful for them to improve or turn the situation around.

Give Constructive Feedback

While it can be awkward to give negative feedback, you should do it in a constructive manner. Don’t make it personal and try not to belittle the, with your feedback. Just keep your advice positive and offer pointers that will help the worker better their behavior and become more productive.

Deal With Problem Employees Accordingly

Dealing with employees is never easy as not all workers are reasonable and rational. As the manager or employer, you will almost always have to deal with workers who are labeled problem employees. While some employers choose to ignore the problem, it’s worth taking the bull by the horns and take it on head first. 

By taking on the difficult employee, you’ll not only help them improve but also send a message to other employees that you’re a capable person who encourages handwork and positivity. For more tips and advice, check out our blog.