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Tag Archives: problem employee

A problem employee must be dealt with promptly

problem employeeIf you don’t deal with a problem employee swiftly and firmly, you run the risk that a few rotting leaves will ruin the whole salad.  Let me explain.

Bagged salad from the grocery store is simple and convenient, so I often purchase it as an easy way to add more greens to our meals.  But every so often, despite the “Best before” date, I see a few leaves beginning to brown through the cellophane wrap.  When I notice some of the edges browning, I have learned that it is wise to open the bag, remove the offending pieces, and store the remaining greens in an airtight container for the next couple of days.  Experience has taught me that if I leave the bag unopened, the few darkening bits turn the entire contents into one big slimy mess, and then nothing is salvageable.

If you don’t deal with your problem employee …

This everyday situation offers a lesson in how important it is for leaders to manage, without delay, the problem employee on their team.  If you observe any of your employees exhibiting poor performance or inappropriate workplace behaviour, it’s essential that you deal with them promptly and firmly.  Because if you leave these individuals unchecked, they will most certainly spread discord and negativity throughout your team simply by being present.  Even worse, your lack of decisive action with a problem employee will actually be demoralizing for the rest of your team.  The few rotting leaves will quickly turn the entire bag into a horrid place to work. Continue reading

Employee performance = ability X motivation

employee performanceI often address the issue of problem employees on the blog.  In the past, I’ve talked about the difference between performance, behaviour and attitude issues, the importance of articulating the problem, and the single most important question to ask yourself before you ever raise the issue with your employee. It’s always worth stepping back and taking a big picture perspective.   Let’s focus on what makes up employee performance, both good and bad.

Employee performance consists of two components

Employee performance is a function of two things – ability and motivation.

Performance = ability X motivation

Ability is the physical, intellectual or emotional capability of your employee to get the job done. Is your employee even able to do what is required in the job?

Motivation however has to do with desire and commitment. Does the employee WANT to do the job at the level and competence that is required?

Why should you care?

Why does this matter? Because you need to assess both factors when trying to get at the root cause of a performance problem. Someone who is highly motivated but at a reduced level of ability can often achieve above-average performance. Unfortunately the opposite is not always true. But don’t be fooled into thinking that motivation can overcome ANY lack of ability – the two are still necessary requirements for exceptional (or even adequate) employee performance. In my experience, you can operate tolerably at 50% ability, but anything less than 75% motivation will get you nowhere.

So what do you think? What are the minimum required levels of ability and motivation to have an adequately performing employee?

Deal with performance problems sooner rather than later

BrokenWindowA recent conversation with a manager in a client organization about dealing with an employee performance problem reminded me of a Mega Minute I wrote back in October 2004 titled Broken Windows and Leadership.  In it, I referred to the Broken Windows theory put forward by authors James Wilson and George Kelli in 1982 to explain the epidemic element of crime.  The ultimate premise of the Broken Windows theory is that small things matter, often more than the big things.  The hypothesis is that if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.  Soon, more windows will be broken.  That leads to more petty crime, then serious crime, and finally urban decay.  The point: if you’ve got broken windows, it’s important to fix them right away, before they turn into bigger problems.

I was reminded of this because this manager and I were talking about the importance of dealing with an employee performance problem promptly.  Continue reading

Got a problem employee? Don’t whitewash

This has been an eventful week in my world of column writing. Yesterday, my newest Profit article titled How to stay focused by managing workflow interruptions was published on ProfitGuide.com, and this morning, my latest piece for The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab hit cyberspace.

Got a problem employee? Don’t whitewash

is (as you might expect from the title) about “whitewash”, a communication blunder that many managers make where they seek to address a problem behaviour by issuing a broad edict to many, instead of being direct and specific with the particular employee who is the concern. Not only does whitewash not achieve the desired outcome with the problem employee, but perhaps more damaging, it is demoralizing to the high-performers on the team. So how do you NOT whitewash? By having a frank and straightforward conversation with the employee in question. But “How?” you ask. Well, my column gives you the answer by laying out the five key steps to structure your dialogue.

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Well now I want to hear from you. What do you think? What have been your experiences with “whitewash”? How have you had that difficult conversation with a problem employee? I’m always interested in other perspectives and viewpoint, including contrary opinions. The primary reason I write these columns is to instigate dialogue; the more we talk about the subjects that make and break us as leaders, the more equipped we are deal with these topics. So please, add your point of view to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, post your Comment here right on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks).

And please help me get the word out and get the message to as many as possible … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love their thoughts as well!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: http://tgam.ca/EKJL

How to handle employee conflict

CGA0102-2014CoverI often blog and talk about how conflict and disagreement amongst your people is not a bad thing (Why conflict and disagreement are essential for high-performing teams and Minimizing conflict is not always a good thing) but there is a line when “good” employee conflict crosses over into “bad”.  When constant conflict between two or more of your employees is based on personal dislike and only seems to get worse, then it’s time to step in … but not quite in the way you might expect. In my latest article in CGA Magazine, I offer four key things to consider in your quest to get your employees to play nice! Continue reading

An (even more) important reason to take action with your problem employee

BadAppleA new CareerBuilder survey, released last week, found that more than a quarter of the over 2,100 managers surveyed (from approx. 2,000 U.S.-based companies) have a direct employee that they’d like to see leave the company.  Even more interestingly, many of these managers chose NOT to directly confront and deal with the problem situation, instead choosing to engage in passive-aggressive behaviours, or drop hints, hoping (against all hope) that the offending employee would somehow get the message.

I don’t know what these managers are thinking … perhaps they’re hoping that if they just ignore the problem, it might just miraculously vanish!  Not!!  When you don’t address the situation with a non-performing employee, the problem gets worse, never better!  In fact, I think the greater tragedy is what your lack of action will do to the morale of the rest of your team.  Continue reading

What to do when a negative employee resorts to sabotage

Earlier this week, I brought up (once again) the oft-discussed subject of workplace negativity, specifically the various tactics that negative people use to create conflict and friction in the workplace.  Previously, I’ve discussed how defensiveness, stalling, disrespectfulness, ranting and gossip are common methods; but I promised that today I would discuss one final extreme tactic – sabotage.  Basically, sabotage is a desperate and final way for a negative person to try to regain power over a situation where he or she thinks they have lost control. Sabotage is usually used by someone who has tried a number of more subtle ways to get others to change a decision or direction of a program.  At this point, the saboteur is desperate or frightened about the future of the situation and is acting in a “last chance” frame of mind.  How do you get past this?  Continue reading

Workplace gossip creates a negative work environment

Spreading gossip is yet another tactic that negative people use to create a toxic workplace.  Keep in mind that negative people usually suffer from low self-esteem, so when the gossiper’s stories tells get strong reactions from others, and even better, begin to “get around”, s/he feels an increasing sense of importance.

At the end of the day though, this is just another approach to gain control and attention within a situation.  There are two different ways to deal effectively with gossip.  Continue reading

Deal firmly with negative employees who rant

Dealing with workplace negativity is a subject that comes up often in my blog, and last year, I talked about how negative people often use fairly predictable tactics to create a destructive work environment. Stalling, defensiveness and disrespectfulness are just three ways. Ranting is a fourth. Think about it: from a negative person’s perspective, a fit of emotion is a good way to regain the attention and control of a situation. By crying or ranting, the person can distract you from holding him accountable or from giving her some critical feedback, which may or may not be negative. Getting past this tactic is easy though. Continue reading

The (only) four reasons for employee non-performance

If you have responsibility for people management, then you know that sometimes employees don’t meet job expectations to the level that is required. What you may not have realized though is that there are only four possible reasons why! In the latest issue of CGA Magazine, I outline the four possible reasons for employee non-performance, and (perhaps more importantly) give you two logical steps to manage the situation more effectively. Continue reading