Managing Problem Employees

Sections of this topic

    “I’ve taken over a project team and there are several problem employees. One spends more time socializing than doing her job. Another is making too many mistakes that slow down the team. How should I handle these problems as the new leader?”

    One of a leader’s toughest jobs is dealing with problem employees. The best course of action is to quickly take action – to identify the trouble and get to the root cause. Allowing the problem behavior to continue or escalate is counterproductive for the employee, for you and for the rest of your team.

    Here are three common problems and suggestions for dealing with them.

    1. Poor performance.
    This may be due to a lack of skills or to faulty work habits such as being careless or disorganized. When you notice that an employee has made some errors, point out the mistakes immediately and monitor their work more closely. If performance difficulties continue, consider coaching or additional training.

    2. Job incompatibility.

    In some cases an employee becomes a problem because their skills are not compatible with their assigned tasks or regular duties. In this case, offering the employee additional training or assigning them a different set of tasks.

    3. Disruptive behavior.

    Take the employee out for lunch or a cup of coffee in a casual setting. State examples of the disruptive behavior and ask what’s troubling him. It may be a personal problem or a simple case of feeling unappreciated. If the problem is more serious, conduct a closed-door meeting and show documented examples of the problem behavior. Discuss the possible consequences he faces – change in responsibilities, demotion or termination – if their behavior does not change.

    Management Success Tip:

    It’s critical to document the problems and record all discussions and actions you’ve taken. Employees often consider written warnings more seriously than verbal reprimands. Creating a paper trail is important, especially if you decide to terminate the employee. Also see Performance Problems: Nip Them in the Bud and Employee Coaching.

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?