The Stuff of Nightmares: Dealing with Employee Problems

A staff that works well together is worth its weight in gold. But, when employees become difficult, whether because of problems with coworkers, supervisors or, in worst cases, customers, it’s an employer nightmare.

Blogger  Alex Perdikis points out that it takes a great leader to put together a great team. It also takes a leader to deal with problems when they arise. What can you do when your best asset becomes your worst nightmare? Follow these tips to deal with employee problems.

The New Hire Did What?

You followed all the best hiring practices and hired the person you thought would hit the ground running. Only it didn’t happen that way.

Your new employee’s customer service skills are sadly lacking. How did you miss the signs during the interview? Why did the applicant’s references give such high praise? Doesn’t matter now. All you know is that the new hire does not fit the position. What can you do?

You hadn’t planned to do it, but training sessions are in order. Perhaps you have a seasoned employee who can train the new hire. Frequently meet with the new employee and evaluate progress. Refer the employee back to the job description and detail what will happen if the new hire does not comply. And, worst case scenario—if the employee does not improve after repeated training and evaluations, let them go and start again.

To avoid having to go through the above nightmare, trying hiring on a three- or six-month probationary contingency. You have a lot more flexibility if someone doesn’t pan out.

 When Trusted Employees Change Their Behavior

Everyone deals with personal problems and it can, without a doubt, influence work performance. If a trusted employee begins making silly mistakes, calls in sick a lot or seems to disappear during the workday, something is obviously wrong. It’s your job to find out what.

Finding out why your employee is having difficulty at work does not mean invading their personal privacy. It does mean sitting down and having a heart-to-heart talk.

If the employee is having personal issues, perhaps the work schedule could be arranged differently. Could the employee work at home for a time? Would it be better for the employee to take leave for a while? Does your company’s insurance offer employee counseling programs?

If, however, the reason for the difficulties is a lack of job satisfaction or related to some kind of work issue, there are different steps you should take. Listen to their concerns and figure out ways to improve job satisfaction or fix the problem. Ask the employee for suggestions.

If job satisfaction is deep-seated, however, the only solution may be to let them go.

The Right Way to Handle Employee Conflicts

It happens in families and it happens in the workplace. People have different personalities and may, even after working together well for long periods of time, become angry with each other. As a leader, what can you do to handle employee conflicts? Follow these guidelines toward a positive resolution:

  • Meet with the antagonists together, not apart: Let each party detail their point of view without interruption or comment. Step in and quash verbal attacks, but otherwise, everyone but the speaker should remain silent.
  • Explain that you will not take sides: Your job during this juncture is to mediate, not decide for them.
  • Ask each what they wish the other would do: Often this give and take type of communication resolves the problem.
  • Require each person to commit to treating the other with dignity and respect: Each person should also notice and thank the other for changes made to resolve the conflict.

If the conflict continues to disrupt the workplace, you may have to step in and make some tough decisions. But many times, mediating a conflict allows the parties to work toward a solution that not only works, but builds camaraderie as well.


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