How should I manage problem employees?
A bad employee is like a bad apple, pretty soon they can become unpalatable, but also infect others, bringing down morale and making other people's lives miserable.
It's important to be able to prevent them from doing so by recognizing problem employees and making sure once the issue is resolved it does not persist.
One of the most potentially difficult human resource problems decisions an employer can make is to terminate a difficult employee without having a preplanned course of action.
In smaller organizations, entrepreneurs often become intimidated by the fear of negative repercussions from terminating an employee.
The first step to such a course of action is to therefore have planned, dated and recorded documentation that protects the employer from grievances and law suits.
Beginning the process
When an employee's performance is disruptive and unproductive, any employer needs to have developed a systematic record of such behaviour.
The process begins by determining the exact reasons why someone is a bad influence or a problem employee.
Is it performance based, an inability to collaborate with co-workers? Or is there some other even more serious reasons which erode morale?
Whatever the reasons, make sure that the exact causes are understood before proceeding.
Develop Employee Policies and Procedures
An employer's case is compromised by the lack of formal and documented workplace policies and procedures. It is, therefore, necessary to have such 'workplace codes' agreed within the organisation.
Such codes set the 'reasonable standards of behaviour which you as an employer expect and to which employees agree at the outset of their employment.
One such course of action is to create an Employee Handbook to properly document expectations for performance and behavior.
Trying the deal with the problem employee
Remember, interpreting a problem employee's behavior as personal can be an obvious mistake to make on your part. It is very important to handle problem employees with an analytic and unemotional attitude. Keeping an emotional distance from the situation helps to maintain objectivity and will reduce the chance of grievances or law suits being successful.
Systematic cautions are a useful way of alleviating the problem, whilst also building up a fair case should the warnings not be heeded. Verbal or written reprimands, suspensions, or other approaches can often serve as a "wake-up call" to an employee.
It is crucial that such discussions are done fairly and reasonably with the employee in question given a chance to account for given examples of poor performance, insubordination, or other incidents.
Letters of reprimand to employees can also be helpful to document formal conversations or consequences regarding indiscretions.
Make sure to include dates and even times that situations occurred and what impact they had on business operations.
Consistency is the key
The best way to deal with dissatisfaction in general is to create a harmonious work environment.
This is an environment where employees are treated consistently and fairly as many grievances and law suits are generated from inconsistencies in the manner policies and procedures are interpreted and enforced.
Sensitivity to the way employees are supervised and managed is very important to reduce the likelihood of claims of favouritism or scapegoats becoming the issues upon which the problem employee supports their position.
Setting the right tone
Employers do not have to tolerate problem employees that damage their business environment and workforce morale. However, successful terminations are only viable if time and effort has been taken to create consistent and appropriate procedures that are fair and reasonable and that efforts are made to document employee transgressions that compromise the work environment.
A bad employee may never fit in, or want to, but given a reasonable effort on your part, some problem employees may have genuine grievances and disaffections which should not be ignored.
The right attitude, procedures and initial planning can ensure that the genuine problem employee remains a very rare case within your experience.