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It is normal for workplace issues to arise amongst colleagues – after all most Americans spend more time at work than any place else. When employees are having difficulty getting along with each other, or when they are having performance problems, small business owners may question how to handle the issues at hand.

 

Companies of all sizes must manage employees that turn out to have difficult personality traits, are a poor fit for their current role or have trouble working with others. Unless the employee has broken the law, behaved unethically or is grossly incompetent, the goal in most cases should be to help them stay with the company. Terminating employees can often be a long process and often a painful one.

 

Driven to Distraction

If you have an employee who has suddenly changed from being a valued, trusted worker to disengaged or disgruntled, there may be something going on in the employee’s personal life.  When you sit down to talk with the employee, remember that the goal is not to get him or her to confess personal problems. You want to make the employee aware that you have noticed the change in his or her behavior and that you’d like to help the employee get back on track.

 

Prior to this conversation, you want to garner as much information as you can that showcases the contrast between the employee’s historical job performance and their current one. For example, you may want to speak to his or her direct supervisor, review quality and error rates, look at attendance records and gather recent e-mail correspondence that may speak to a change in attitude.  Hopefully, with your help and support, the employee can work on shifting their behavior and mindset in a more positive direction.

 

The Attitude Problem

Some employees just don’t realize how they come across to others when they are condescending, blunt, offensive or self-aggrandizing. Working with this type of personality can cause a decline in team morale, derail a project or make everyone else’s job more difficult.

 

Pull Quote.pngIf you are faced with disciplining an employee for a negative attitude, there are several steps you can take. One option is to present the problem to the employee using the SBI model – this is a way that sheds light on the situation at hand – what the situation is, how different behaviors factor into the outcome and its impact on fellow employees. Be sure to criticize the behavior, not the person. Make it clear that the offending behavior is a problem because of its impact on company productivity. If the employee wasn’t aware of the impact of his or her behavior on workmates, he or she just might make a change.

 

The Bad Fit

Sometimes you will find that you’ve hired a bright, hard-working employee who just isn’t in the right job. Remember that a performance deficiency is not the same thing as insubordination or misconduct. Therefore, the right solution might be coaching. Keep in mind, this approach will likely require patience by the small business owner, and other employees.

 

If you’re unsure about whether the employee can gain competence in his or her role, you may have to make the tougher decision to terminate employment. However, before you do that, conduct a formal performance review and analyze the employee’s strengths and weaknesses to determine if there might be a better fit elsewhere in the company.

 

If an employee has been valuable to your small business, don’t ignore the difficult behavior or immediately write them off. Look for a way to resolve the issues. At the end of the day, it’s usually better to find a way to work with an employee – even a difficult one – than to go through the time- and cost-intensive process of recruiting and training a new one.