It is easy to slip into categorizing employees as “good” or “bad.” You may even keep a mental “bad employees list” and keep a close eye on those employees. The reality is that most employees are not inherently good or bad. Some might just need a little extra help to improve.
Dealing With Bad Employee Characteristics
As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate, and it can be a challenge to help your employees overcome bad employee characteristics. Given how expensive it is to hire and train new employees, though, it can be a worthwhile investment to help your employees improve and to teach your front-line managers how to do the same.
Some bad employee traits are easier to overcome than others. Some might require extensive coaching, while others might be a result of inexperience or a lack of self-awareness that a simple conversation can help overcome. The best approach is to be direct and understanding with your employees, discussing their strengths as well as their weaknesses. For more challenging issues, work with your employee to develop a plan for improvement and monitor how your employee is progressing.
Being Disrespectful to Customers, Co-Workers or Managers
If employees are disrespectful to customers, it can seriously damage your business’s reputation. Many consumers check online reviews before deciding to patronize a business, and if customers are not treated well, that is likely to show up in reviews.
Similarly, a lack of respect toward co-workers and managers can make your business volatile and uncomfortable. Talk to your employee about why she is being disrespectful. Is she getting overwhelmed? Is she being micromanaged? Is she unaware of how her actions are being perceived?
Once you know the reason your employee is acting out, develop a plan to address those reasons. She might need strategies for staying calm under pressure, or your managers might need to step in more to assist. She might have a personal conflict with another employee and need to be reminded to keep personal issues out of the workplace, and she may need a schedule that minimizes interactions with that employee if possible.
Not Taking Responsibility for Actions
Employees make mistakes. They make them for a variety of reasons:
- A lack of training.
- Being rushed or inattentive.
- Not properly planning for a task or project.
- Not asking for assistance when needed.
Some employees know that if they make a mistake, it is best to take ownership of it. They admit to the mistake and take steps to rectify it, or at the very least, they listen to your coaching on how to improve moving forward.
Other employees may deflect and point fingers when they make a mistake. If this is an ongoing issue, discuss the pattern with the employee. Let him know that mistakes are frustrating but expected, and it is best to admit to them rather than blame them on others. After all, you know that he is the one responsible, and not taking responsibility reflects poorly on him.
Taking the Credit of Others
This is the flip side of not taking responsibility. Some employees may swoop in and take credit for other people’s successes. They might take credit away from more introverted team members or subordinates who are not present to defend themselves.
This is a situation that might be brought to your attention by an employee who has been overlooked. Investigate the situation and make sure credit is given to the appropriate employee. Talk to the employee who inappropriately took credit about how and why it happened and how to prevent it in the future.
Taking the credit of others can also happen in meetings. It is well documented that women are often talked over by men in meetings. A woman may quietly make a point, and a man may repeat it and take credit. This can be overcome by paying close attention to meeting participation and presentations and making an effort to ensure everyone has a voice at the table.
Not Extending Themselves
Small businesses require employees to see beyond their job description and jump in whenever help is needed. Not all employees are willing to contribute, though. If you have an employee who often responds with “It is not my job,” you may want to have a conversation with her.
If the original job description included “other duties as required,” as they often do, you may want to remind the employee of this fact and that she is a part of a larger team. You may want to mention that her contributions are important and that the business can not be successful if everyone is not contributing to its success. A successful business means job security and opportunities for advancement.
Employees who are new to the workforce may not understand that they are part of a bigger picture, or it could be that your employee is a bit overextended already and can not take on any more work. Find out why the employee is not contributing and formulate a plan to help her improve.
Gossip in the Workplace
Gossip can be extremely damaging to your workplace. If you are finding one employee consistently at the center of workplace drama, you should discuss the situation with that employee. Let the employee know that spreading gossip is damaging and that workplace conversation should remain professional.
Breaking the Law
Sometimes employees break the law. How you deal with it depends on the situation, but it is important to gather all the facts and act appropriately and quickly. For example, with employee theft, document the evidence and decide whether you want to handle the issue privately or if you want to press charges.
In a situation that impacts your customers, such as data theft, take steps to prevent the issue from happening again and decide whether you want to pursue legal action. An experienced attorney and law enforcement representatives can help you take the appropriate steps.
You should also have a way for employees to safely report any issues they encounter, whether it be harassment, theft or something else. Some employees may want to report things anonymously to prevent any repercussions.
Unwillingness to Learn
An employee who is unwilling to learn and change can be extremely frustrating. It could be that the employee is not a good fit for your business. Before you take drastic measures, though, talk to the employee about the patterns you have observed.
Make sure to document the meetings and note what was discussed and the actions that you and the employee decided to take moving forward. It might be that the employee needs additional coaching or to have different job responsibilities. It could be that the employee is experiencing personal challenges that are leaving him distracted.
If you do need to part ways for this or for any other reason, make sure you have documentation. Termination for poor performance should not come as a surprise to the employee. Include at least one other party in the meeting and encourage the employee to look for a position that plays to his strengths.
- Inc.: 8 Qualities of Exceptionally Destructive Employees
- Center for Creative Leadership: How to Deal with Problem Employees Effectively
- CNBC: 11 Behaviors That Indicate You're a Problem Employee
- Business News Daily: 5 Personality Traits to Beware of When You're Hiring
- The New York Times: The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women
- Forbes: What Do You Do When You Find out an Employee Is Stealing from You?
Melinda Hill Sineriz is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience. She specializes in business, personal finance, and career content. She has worked in sales and has managed her own business for more than a decade. She has also written content for businesses in various industries, including restaurants, law firms, dental offices, and e-commerce companies. Learn more about her and her work at thatmelinda.com.