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Taking on troublesome employees: A 4-step discussion plan

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in HR Management,Management Training,People Management,Performance Reviews

With some employees, the problem isn't a matter of ability, it's a matter of attitude. This can manifest itself in everything from quiet disobedience to outright insubordination.

How should you respond? Rather than becoming entangled in a debate about the employee's dysfunctional attitude, address the situation strictly as a behavioral problem. That way, it's not only easier to resolve, but also a better way to make a case for dismissal.
It's not always easy to confront an employee who's slipping up... Troublesome People at Work: How to Coach, Counsel and Turn Around Problem Employees
Your first step is to document the behavior. Write down specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you, hurt team morale, damage productivity or reflect badly on the organization. Don't forget to record nonverbal behaviors, such as rolling eyes, clenching fists and staring into space.

Narrow the issue to the precise problem. Identify exactly what type of behavior the attitude has caused. This list may help:
  • Carelessness
  • Complaining
  • Disruptive or explosive conduct
  • Inattention to work
  • Insensitivity to others
  • Insubordination
  • Laziness
  • Negative/cynical posture
  • Surly/inconsiderate/rude talk
  • Excessive socializing

Record the frequency of such misconduct, plus how it affects work flow and colleagues' performance. List good business reasons why the behavior must end.

You have enough to do – you shouldn’t have to pick up the slack for employees who aren’t pulling their own weight. Thanks to this problem-solving guide, you’ll be able to reclaim your own time. You’ll rest assured that your workers are doing what they were hired to do. Troublesome People at Work: How to Coach, Counsel and Turn Around Problem Employees
The 4-Step Discussion Plan

Expert HR trainer Amy Anderson recommends that your discussions with troublesome people focus on these four points:

1. the 'What'
  • Precisely pinpoint the problem to the employee.
  • Focus on specific task outcomes and/or behaviors.
  • Use examples.
  • Reference previous conversations.
Example: “As we’ve discussed before, your backlog is unacceptable and deadlines are being missed. You know our department standard is ____ and you are not meeting it by _____.” (Cite specific expectations and examples of poor performance and/or behavior.)

Another approach: “How do you think things are going with your backlog and deadlines this month? I know you’ve been worried about meeting our department standard.” (Actively listen.) “What do you think the problem is? Why is it happening?”

2. the Impact
  • Identify the negative impact (on quality, productivity, service, others, goals, etc.).
  • Gain agreement that a problem exists.
  • Discuss future consequences if the problem continues.
Example: “When these deadlines are missed, other departments are affected and it impacts our service. For example …" (Cite specifics.) "Do you agree this is a problem? I am documenting our conversation. Failure to improve will lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

Another approach: “What do you think happens when these deadlines are missed? How do you think it impacts service?” (Actively listen.) “I know this is difficult and I have confidence you’ll take care of this, but failure to improve will lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Just so you’re aware, I do need to document our conversation.”

3. the 'How'
  • Generate solutions to solve the problem.
  • Decide on the best course of action.
  • Gain commitment from the employee on his or her role in solving the problem.
Example: “I have created a turnaround plan for you with steps to make the necessary improvements. First …” (Describe the plan.) “What can I further clarify? Are you willing to follow this plan?”

Another approach: “Let’s brainstorm ideas on what you can do to meet the standard. I’m here to support you in any way I can. I want you to be successful.” (Actively listen, reinforce the employee's workable ideas, add your own ideas and confirm the plan.) “These are good action steps. Can you summarize them in an e-mail this afternoon?”

4. the 'When'
  • Establish a follow-up strategy.
  • Clearly determine how and when you and the employee will review progress.
  • Set specific dates for check-in meetings.
  • Recognize improvements as they happen (even small steps).
Example: “I’ll be checking your workload each day to see how you’re progressing. Let’s also meet every Friday in the conference room at 3:00 to review how you’re specifically performing on the plan. Those meetings will also be documented.”

Another approach: “Let’s meet regularly to go over your progress. How frequently do you think is workable?” (Remain open to the employee's suggestion but add your input as necessary.) “Let’s go ahead and put that on our calendars.”
Don’t think it’s worth it to single out a struggling worker and take time out of your busy schedule to help? Consider the potential results if you DON’T confront problems:
  • Loss of productivity. Poor performers do only about a third of the work of average employees.book cover
  • 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.
Still not convinced Troublesome People at Work can help you improve your organization? 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. Get your copy today!

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