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Friday, December 17, 2010

Managing Difficult and Underperforming Employees

Whether you own your own business or are a member of management in a corporation, you're likely to encounter challenging employees. No matter if it's their work ethic or personality that rubs you the wrong way, the easiest coping strategy for this situation is often to simply ignore it altogether. However, turning a blind-eye to the problem almost always means that office tensions will escalate further.

Before taking action, determine specifically, using concrete examples, exactly what the employee does that aggravates you. This exercise will ensure that your qualms regarding the individual are justified and he or she is not simply the office scapegoat. It can be all-to-easy to start unconsciously assigning undue blame on a single member of your staff.

If you find the difficult employee in question is indeed causing tension for you or the rest of your staff, as his or her boss, you have the responsibility to defuse the situation promptly and with the necessary tact. Remember that all your other team members will be watching — especially if the behavior of the person in question directly affects their workday.

When confronting a difficult employee with poor work ethic or behavior:

  • Act immediately: You may not enjoy initiating a confrontation with a problem employee, but the longer you wait, the more likely the situation is to become unmanageable. In addition, you don't want to convey the attitude that poor behavior in the workplace will be tolerated by other team members.

  • Maintain a professional attitude: It's essential that you not lose your temper or refer to non-work related grievances during the conversation. Offer your respect by keeping the conversation appropriate and out of view and earshot of other employees. Unless it's necessary to consult other team members, keep the issue private.

  • Be clear: Site specific examples and set explicit boundaries. Clue the employee in on the consequences their actions have to their team or the business as a whole. Remember that it's possible that your employee was not even aware of his or her infractions.

  • Offer recommendations: Let the employee in question give his or her side of the story to help you understand the motives. After hearing them out fully, offer your insight on how they can make adjustments.

  • Don't be quick to fire: Not only is employee turnover costly to a business, it can also present legal issues. Terminating an employee should be your last resort. Remember, investing in your employees makes sense.
If it's quality of the employee's work rather than his or her conduct that is the issue, as a manager, you're responsible for helping that employee fully understand your expectations. Again the team member in question may not even know that you're dissatisfied.

When confronting a difficult employee with poor quality of work:

  • Act on an appropriate timeline: If it's an inexperienced employee or a novel project, do give the person some time to figure it out on their own. However, if the quality does not improve, it's time to tackle the issue face-to-face.
  • Point the finger on yourself: Consider the notion that it's not the employee that is the problem, but your own directions that are resulting in miscommunication. Start by asking how the employee thinks he or she should be completing the project and ask them to site the steps they're taking. Then assess again how the situation needs to be remedied.

  • Change the way you present instructions: Different people learn and understand best using different methods of communication. Strive to understand how your employee operates by giving instructions both verbally and in writing.

  • Don't intimidate: Instead of calling employees into your office, confront them about their performance on their own turf. They'll feel more at ease and the conversation will likely be more productive.
The most important takeaway should be to refrain from making assumptions. Don't immediately presume it's the employee that's in the wrong and don't assume the problem employee knows his or her quality of work or behavior is in question. By approaching the situation from different viewpoints and asking questions, confrontations are more likely to yield positive results.

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posted by Tiger Leasing @ 1:51 PM

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