The chronically late, the anger management candidate, the person who questions your every decision — these employees could possess all the skills in the world and still would make life difficult for you. According to Microsoft, U.S. businesses lose about $600 billion each year from unproductive employees. The fact is, if your other employees are doing their work on NetSuite or whatever their software of choice, and the problem employee constantly disrupts their day, your bottom line is going to suffer. Rather than losing your temper and feeding into their emotional struggles, treat these employees in a professional manner while getting them to change their destructive behavior.
If all you can offer is vague statements about how the employee is behaving, he has the ability to argue it all day long. Denial and belittling the behavior are his defenses of choice. Avoid this before it even starts by keeping a detailed record of his behavior. On September 12, you were 17 minutes late, clocking in at 8:17. On September 16, you were 22 minutes late, clocking in at 8:52. When faced with such detailed evidence, he’ll have no way to argue around the facts, and will have to face his behavior.
Have a System in Place
Unruly employees love to make excuses for their behavior, and one of their favorites is often that they aren’t being treated fairly. Eliminate the possibility of this happening by setting up a detailed plan for dealing with company infractions and set it down in writing. Give it to every employee on the first day on the job, so they will have been informed ahead of time. Follow the procedures exactly when disciplining this employee.
Avoid the Drama
No one likes to be criticized, especially when they know they’re in the wrong. Difficult employees can argue for hours about their behavior and the excuses behind it, escalating the emotion into anger or tears. Do not fall into this pit, or you’ll have a hard time digging yourself out. Keep all your discussions calm and unemotional. State the facts, and keep all mention of feelings out of the room. It doesn’t matter if his behavior makes Tania frustrated or Jamal angry — what matters is that it’s inappropriate and needs to stop.
Have a Plan
Before you even invite the employee into your office, have a plan in place for correcting his behavior and turning him into a better team member. Document every scenario, and give him alternate ways to cope or react with problems. Give him clear and achievable goals, and set them into a timetable. Make it very clear to him you will be monitoring his behavior, and describe exactly what the consequences will be if he doesn’t follow the plan.
No one will think you’re serious about change if you don’t follow through on your own rules and decisions. Sure, it takes extra time that could be better spent elsewhere, but set those follow-up dates in your calendar right away, and document the behavior you see. Have a short meeting with the employee to discuss his progress or lack thereof, and remind him of the perks or consequences of continuing on in his current manner.