Dealing Effectively with Problem Employees



Every business owner and manager hopes to have productive employees who take the extra mile to provide top quality in whatever business area they are responsible for. The reality is that dealing with problem employees brings a lot of stress and even confusion.

Problem employees can fall into a few categories. I will cover a few categories here and some communication tips on dealing with these issues:

Time issues with problem employees

There are two types of problems, and each one requires a different approach.

When employees are either late or leave earlier than expected, or when they take vacation, regardless of project deadlines or they take too many breaks during the day, it seems that the rules are not clear.  When clarity is missing, and some employees are taking advantage of that, it’s time to:

  1. Review that there is a policy in place
  2. Discuss one-on-one with the employee the breach. Look at this as an opportunity and not as a slap on their hand. Discuss whether they have any personal issues that may present them with a challenge to attend as needed and clarify that consistency is required from all employees on the team to ensure high performance and fairness.
  3. Communicate your policy again to all the employees.

When their projects or tasks need extension in the last minute over and again, it’s time to sit down with the employee one-on-one and

  1. Discuss how to communicate with you progress of projects/tasks through using milestones.
  2. Recommend when they should be approaching you with any difficulties that come up.
  3. Explore what could be distracting them and help the employee commit to how they will avoid distractions while they are in the office, so they can focus on completing their job on time.

Selective Performance

This is an interesting one because some will say this is not a problem employee.  You have a very capable employee who only does what they like to do and they ignore the other stuff, that needs to get done. Sometimes, they drag on specific projects, that you clearly know that they have the skills to do. And other times they save the day with their high-quality solutions.

First ask yourself:

  • Do they have a proper mix of tasks that are challenging to them?
  • Can you tweak the workload and give others on the team the stuff that is not challenging to your star performer?

Whether you can or cannot tweak workload distribution or change roles and responsibilities, you need to clarify your expectations from your star employees. Which is: to do what’s necessary to deliver high quality results, on time and on budget.  It makes sense to praise them on what they do well and to hope that you can praise them many more occasions.

Social Misfit

Their social behavior doesn’t match the culture you’d like to have in your workplace. For example:

  • Employees are short and snippy with one another.
  • Employees seem disinterested in caring for potential customers.
  • Employees constantly complain instead of trying to resolve issues.

When culture shows signs of disintegration, other employees may leave, stress level increases, and business goes elsewhere. You need to have a dialog with the culprit as soon as possible. This may be your toughest conversation.

  • Explain the reason why the culture you want is the right one. Don’t make assumptions that they know!
  • Ask whether they think otherwise.
  • Ask them if they think they could fit in, now that they know what is required.
  • Set a date to revisit the behavior together.

At that time, if you see a significant change for better, encourage and tell them you’ll continue to observe. If not, give them a last warning and start to look for a new hire, even if the person is technically great.

To learn more about problem employees and  signs of employee disengagement that you need to address, read our blog post. If you need a candid review of roles and responsibilities within your culture, it’s time to talk to a professional about incorporating a strategic approach to leverage your employees. Call our office at (732)385-1522 to schedule an assessment with one of our coaches.