02 Dec 2017

Correct a Problem Employee Immediately

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How to be a Good Manager and Supervisor and How to DelegateDisciplining a problem employee is always tough. In fact, I think that the hardest lesson I had to learn as a manager was dealing with incorrect behavior or poor production. I think it has something to do with the way we’re brought up – we’re taught from an early age that we’re not supposed to judge people. Yet, failing to judge team members , and worse yet, failing to take corrective action, is one of the worst mistakes a manager can make.

Correct improper behavior immediately. The longer you wait, the worse the problem becomes.

Once you let a problem that you’ve identified slide, you’ve set a precedent, and the performance of your team will get worse as time progresses.

Let’s say you’ve determined it’s important for everyone to be at meetings on time. You explain to your team members that their time is valuable, and when someone is late, even by five minutes, it’s rude and wastes the time of everyone involved. After discussing it with your team , you get agreement from all of them to be on time,

At the very first meeting after you set the policy, one team member, Albert is late. He walks in five minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start, sits down, opens his laptop, and begins playing a video game. You have a problem employee.

You are upset, but you decide it’s a minor infraction, and besides, it was only five minutes. He wasn’t essential to the meeting, so you tell yourself, so the video game wasn’t important.

Albert was always late to meetings after that. In fact, for an entire year he showed up late. At first it was just five minutes, but then he’s ten minutes late, then fifteen, then twenty minutes. A couple members of your team mentioned the problem to you – they are upset because Albert is wasting their time.

A few other team members start showing up late, and since you let Albert get away with it, you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about it.

Finally, Albert shows up 30 minutes late, missing over half the meeting. Now he’s become a significant problem employee.

You’ve been getting more and more angry, and this was the last straw. You take Albert into a private room, and give him a written warning. He continues to be late, receives another written warning, then you decide to fire him.

But HR informs you that you can’t fire Albert. In fact, you have to withdraw the written warnings from his file.

What happened? You set the precedent of allowing your team to violate a policy. Since you didn’t take care of it immediately, you’re now stuck with it.

This is a problem that should never have gotten to this stage. By simply having a discussion with Albert after the first meeting, the issue most likely would have been handled. More importantly, you would have set the precedent that you WILL enforce the policy.

This king of thing happens all the time in a business. While being late to meetings may not be a huge issue (I chose the example for simplicity), poor production or quality can put the entire team at risk. When others see that you allow one team member to slack off, they’ll do the same. After all, it must be okay to take a 2 hour lunch, come in 30 minutes late, and spend hours texting during work. If it wasn’t okay, you, the boss, would certainly have put a stop to it, right?

What do you do?

The first time is the time to deal with a problem.

If the quality of the product is poor, you talk to the culprit as soon as you find out.  Get it corrected, and do it fast.

If you receive complaints from customers, you don’t shrug and move on. You confront the team member and get it sorted out.

If your employee is supposed to create 20 widgets every hour, and he’s only doing 10, investigate and get it fixed.

Not getting a problem handled is implied consent.

Your team members will thank you in the long run, because they will be doing their jobs at the highest quality. They will feel better knowing that policies are enforced, because this makes the boundaries clear. By ensuring that everyone is pulling their own weight and doing their job, you won’t have to excuse any slackers or poor performers.

Best of all, if you handle the problem employee fast, you’ll find you don’t have to discipline often or harshly. Everyone will understand the rules and will be confident they will be treated fairly.

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