How to Manage Problem Employees

Managing Problem Employees

Not every employee you manage is going to be successful in their role. Usually, when employees underperform it may signal the need for further training or even transfer to another area perhaps more suited to their skills. Sometimes, termination may be the only option if the other avenues were unsuccessful.

Be Careful With Employee Personal Problems

Sometimes employees have personal problems outside of work that can affect their performance (and even attendance) at work. As a manager you need to be careful that you are only addressing the work problem and not the personal problem. You don’t have capacity, authority or the resources to solve personal problems as a manager.

If an employee is not performing well because of a personal problem, you will need to sit down and have a talk about it but define your objective first, which is correcting a work problem. You can direct them to human resources or employee assistance programs if there is a need but it is up to them as to how to solve the problem themselves (otherwise they will blame and possibly even sue you and your company). As a manager you can demand that they solve the problem or otherwise they may be dismissed. However, do this in a caring way but such that it is clear and there is no misunderstanding.

Confronting Challenging Behavior Personalities

When you are in management, you will come across a whole swag of different employee personalities. Some attack, some constantly seek the limelight, some complain, others don’t do anything unless it is expressly stated in their job description and so on.

The best way to confront these personalities is to take the employee aside and explain to the employee what behaviors need to change and why. Once you’ve said your bit, you need to allow them to speak and listen to what they have to say. There are often reasons as to why people behave the way they do. Be sure to have examples of the behavior so they understand what you mean. Get them to agree to change and talk about how you will monitor their behavior, remembering to give positive feedback later where improvement is shown. Before you know it, you will have both improved the performance of a problem employee and also demonstrated that you do care in them doing a good job by showing an interest in their development on an individual and team level.

Building Successful Teams

The Importance of the Team

It is a no brainer that when people work together as a team better decisions are made than if the individual team members were working alone. Two heads are better than one, as they say. Yesterday’s manager could have been an expert in all areas of his or her field and may have been able to tell direct reports exactly what to do to complete a task. With today’s fast paced world and technology, managers do not necessarily know all the detail. In fact, good managers will have people working under them that do the job better than they do. It follows that the real skill that a manager needs is to be able to have good teambuilding skills to guide, drive and inspire his or her team to success.

Building Team Spirit

In order to build team spirit, the following five factors are essential.

  1. Open Communication – Being able to have open, honest communication is very important for creating successful teams. Next time you observe a team strongly disagreeing with one another as to the best way to improve a product or service, take a moment to realise that this is actually a great team at work. One that is passionate about achieving the best outcome.
  2. Empowerment – When you empower team members to make the final decisions with regards to the work they are doing, they become more confident in their abilities and will take greater pride in their work. Be careful to ensure that the team is ready for empowerment though. If not, it could spell disaster.
  3. Clear Roles & Responsibilities – As a manager you need to make sure that each team member’s roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. They need to know what is expected of them and each other. This prevents overlapping of work and handballing responsibilities, which often leads to one person doing more work than another to pick up the slack.
  4. Effective Leadership – You need to set clear goals for each team member, give continual feedback emphasising the positive more than the negative, share examples of your personal mistakes to relate to the team and encourage team members to share their views and opinions where there is a conflict.
  5. Reward & Accountability System – It is very important that people are held accountable for their responsibilities within a team. By the same token, people need to be rewarded for their individual as well as their team contributions. It’s not about trying to single one person out or rewarding one person more than the others. Take a look at the most successful sports teams where members earn more based on the position or their achievements.

(Not sure how to start communicating openly with your team? Try using an icebreaker.)

A team working together

The Dictator & The Diplomat

Historically, two management styles have dominated the workforce. Neither alone will make you an effective manager. You need to realize that you need to utilize more than just two management styles and become an alert manager.

Dictator (aka Hitler)

Some first time managers are thrown into the deep end and believe that they have to begin acting as if they know everything. After all, their direct reports will be looking to them for leadership. They start to act like “the boss”.

These dictator or autocrat managers make most decisions and expect their staff to jump when they are told what to do. They harbor fear in the workplace and generate fear and resentment throughout the office. The dictators make people believe that they are working for someone.

The Diplomat

Diplomatic managers know that spending the time up front to explain the what and why with their direct reports will reap benefits in the long run. They cause people to want to work that extra bit harder because employees are left feeling cared for and respected. They feel feel that they are working with someone.

While the autocrat/dictator thinks that the diplomat is a wimp, the diplomat thinks that the autocrat is too authoritative in management.

Why You Need To Be “Alert”

A manager needs to be alert and exercise a balance between control and encouragement. Each employee is different. As a manager, you need to determine what each employee needs from you in order to perform at their best.  You need to be alert to their needs.

People can be

  • very motivated, but lack the skills or knowledge to succeed;
  • lacking motivation, but have the necessary skills;
  • motivated and perform well, need little control or encouragement;
  • lacking both ability and willingness to perform; or
  • average in all areas

A change in situation or work environment can trigger a change in an employee from one “attitude” to the other. Being alert and aware of the needs of your direct reports can make a huge difference for you as a manager.

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