Simply tolerating such workers is a finger-in-the-dike approach, and it runs counter to two traits of good managers—leadership and decisiveness. Managers who silently put up with such behavior will undermine their own authority.
The best way to tackle such problems is to meet with employees right when you spot the problem behavior.
Explain the problem, impact
When you sit down with the employee, describe the behaviors and tell the employee firmly that those behaviors must stop. Point out the offending behavior using the D-I-S method:
Direct. Precisely pinpoint the problem—don’t beat around the bush. Too often, managers fail in their counseling efforts because they skip this basic, yet uncomfortable step. Don’t feel bad about being direct. Every manager has the right to demand that employees behave in a courteous and cooperative manner.
Immediate. Talk with employees right after you see (or hear about) offending behavior. That makes it harder for the employee to explain away your words.
Specific. Explain concrete examples of the employee’s actions, how they affect co-workers and the consequences. A vague accusation like, “We hear you’re being rude to co-workers,” isn’t as effective as, “Telling Mary her haircut looks like a rat’s nest is impolite and it won’t be tolerated.”
Make sure the employee understands the negative impact of his behavior on morale, productivity, service, legal risks, etc. Gain agreement with the employee that a problem exists. And discuss the consequences if the problem continues.
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Discuss the solution, follow-upDon’t let such a meeting end without deciding on the best course of action. Generate solutions to correct the problem—even if that just means having the person confirm that “I won’t do that anymore.” Gain commitment from the employee on his or her role in solving the problem.
Then establish a clear follow-up strategy. Determine how and when you and the employee will review progress. Set a specific date (or dates) for future check-in meetings.
Document, documentAfter the discussion, managers should write a summary to put in the employee’s file. Discuss specifics with HR.
This summary should be just that—a summary of the problem discussed. It should cite specific examples, the requested improvement (and timeline) and a proposed follow-up plan. The summary should be less than one page and completed in less than one day after the meeting.
What happens when you hesitateSometimes managers recognize why they tolerate habitually impolite employees, and sometimes they don’t. Consider the potential results if you DON’T confront problem employees:
- Loss of productivity. Poor performers do only about a third of the work of average employees.
- Loss of business. Clients who have to deal with difficult employees may take their business somewhere else.
- Loss of time. It can take you twice as long to supervise a poor performer.
- Loss of talent. If your other employees don’t think you’re managing well, they might find other work.
- Loss of self-esteem. Managers who blame themselves for workplace problems can feel less self-confident.
- Rule violations. Certain behaviors can put employees at risk.
Think about this: How much is an hour of your time worth?
How much does your most difficult worker earn?
Add these two together and you’ll get the cost of an hour of supervision.
If Troublesome People at Work can save you even an hour of supervisory time, it’s already paid for itself. And remember, it can even save you the high cost of a termination-related lawsuit.
With Troublesome People at Work, you'll learn:
- Seven rules for disciplining rule-breakers
- The ABCs of feedback
- Seven steps to helping troubled employees
- Tips for handling an angry employee
- How to create a positive work environment
- Five mistakes managers make that cause workers to dig in their heels
- How to formulate an action plan to deal with even the most infuriating employee