In a perfect world every employee would always do their best, in both job performance and attitude. Unfortunately, however, as an HR professional one of the toughest aspects of your job is dealing with “problem” employees.
There are a few key points to bear in mind when handling this thorny issue to promote the best outcomes for all parties involved.
Distinguish between substandard job performance and misconduct
These two transgressions are often thought of as one and the same thing but that is not the case. A manager will often just know that what is happening is unacceptable, and therefore that the employee must be dealt with. However, poor job performance and misconduct are separate issues and should be dealt with differently. Learn what the difference is if you don’t already.
Performance issues require steps of corrective action
If the problem is a job performance issue, the usual thing to do is implement a “three steps then you’re out” type of disciplinary action model. This could entail a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, and then a final written warning before dismissal.
Note, however, that a recent hire and a long-term employee will often be treated differently in terms of what constitutes proper notice of poor performance.
Conduct sometimes requires more immediate action
If the problem has to do with the employee’s conduct, you and the employer have more discretion with what constitutes the appropriate level of corrective action. Depending on the specific scenario with the employee in question, you may not want to stick to the three-step model mentioned above.
However, skipping a step is usually for more serious infringements like theft, embezzlement, and forgery.
Create an open environment
To prevent potential issues becoming greater issues later on, it is important that you foster a constructive environment for communication. Employees should feel that if they are struggling they can come to you and either talk about what is bothering them or even ask for help and understanding. It is also important that employees feel like they can ask “why” or query rules and regulations. You might know they are there for good reason, but it is best that employees understand the reasoning themselves as well.
Leave the drama out of it
It is imperative that you at all times remain level headed in your dealings with difficult employees. Don’t confront employees in an emotional manner, but remain cool, calm and objective. Never let issues get to you on a personal level. Not only would that be unprofessional on your side, but it can escalate the issue tremendously.
You will probably be aware of the above mentioned tips if you have taken human resource management courses or undergone similar training. However, it is still good to be reminded about a few points in this matter. Dealing with problem employees is never a fun thing to do, but if handled correctly a lot of the difficulty can be avoided.