How to deal with problem employees without firing

How to deal with problem employees without firing

Although HR professionals are well-versed in dealing with a range of issues, dealing with 'problem employees' is always difficult.

According to Forbes, termination should be a last resort: “You hired them for a reason and they were, at one point in time, contributing team members.”

Four HR executives from Forbes HR Council share five tips on how to handle a problem employee.

1. Feedback is key

Angela Nguyen, Vice President of Human Capital Management at the Ad Exchange Group, recommends giving feedback to employees when there is an issue.

“Often, employees don’t even realise they’re performing poorly until it’s too late,” she says.

“Confrontation is only a dirty word when handled clumsily. Delivering clear, consistent, and constructive feedback lets employees know where they stand and gives them a chance to ask questions and make an honest effort at improvement, whether through additional training, mentorship, or mind sharing.”

2. Rely on honesty

Sarah O’Neill, Director of HR at Digital Trends, relies on the adage ‘honesty is the best policy’.

“By having open and honest conversations, being supportive rather than accusatory, and by providing tools to lead the employee in the right direction, reinforced discussions can go a long way.

“Follow progressive action discipline in all situations, talking it through along the way, and you can’t go wrong.”

3. Don’t leave it too late

Courtney Mudd, Director of HR at Influence & Co, says to talk to employees as soon as a problem arises. She says to be specific when discussing an employee’s declined performance, and be mindful on any issues contributing to this.

She says: “[Problem] employees tend to slack off, underperform and resign because they are not motivated or not challenged.”

Mudd suggest that if they are slacking, call them up on it, ask if everything is okay and reset expectations.

4. Address problems at the outset

Kristin Williams, Vice President - Enterprise Services Group at Ultra Mobile, says to deal with problems as they emerge to prevent them.

“A common workplace problem is when a team member does not adhere to a schedule. That five minutes late becomes ten and then 15,” she says. “In business, leaders have to address problems early when they are little and cite specific behaviours or actions that need to change. Don’t leave it up for interpretation.”

“The first time someone is late, address it. On my team, we have set the expectation that if you are going to be more than ten minutes late, [you’re] expected to text me.”

5. Don’t wait

Meg Battle, Director of Human Resources and Business Services at Rabin Martin, advises: “Giving feedback in real-time using specific examples gives your employee a chance to reflect on the behaviour and outcomes while it is still fresh in their mind and yours. Set clear expectations and clarify what they need to do to meet them.

“Ongoing feedback should be coupled with scheduled formal feedback opportunities, so both employee and supervisor are communicating regularly about progress.”

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