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How to deal with a “problem” employee the right way

By partnersinhr, Oct 10 2016 12:32PM

Are you experiencing issues with an employee? Perhaps the problem has always existed or maybe it has just occurred out of the blue. In an SME, such problems are very visible and the impact magnified compared to a larger company where the ‘problem’ may be hidden or moved to a different department! It is therefore vital for a smaller organisation to address the problem head on and ensure it is dealt with swiftly, effectively and above all professionally. Sometimes managers shy away from dealing with a ‘problem’ employee but it is not as daunting as you might expect if approached correctly.


Identifying the Issue

Whilst some employee issues are obvious and easy to identify, such as poor time keeping, the reason for the problem may not be. Poor time keeping could be due to a variety of factors such as external pressures such as childcare or carer responsibilities, public transport, increased workload, unable to prioritise/manage time. Some problems need more time, investigation and planning, such as employees displaying low morale, changes in behaviour and health problems. Getting to the heart of the problem will help you formulate a suitable plan of action using your relevant company policies & procedures and ensuring you fulfil your responsibilities in the eyes of the law.


Identifying and Finding Solutions

Communication is key when identifying staff issues and it is important to get all sides of the story whilst also understanding how and when to escalate a potentially complex issue. Often problems go unnoticed or unresolved due to poor communication or a real lack of understanding of the issue at hand.


Below are some of the more common instances that could crop up at any time, along with recommendations on how to find the best solution.


Health Issues: The responsibility for wellbeing and health in the workplace lies with both the employer and employee. There are a number of health reasons that could affect an employee’s performance including long term illnesses, stress, and recovery from injury or mental health issues.


Health should be dealt with in a sensitive manner, and in line with the company absence & sickness policy. It may be necessary to look into stress levels experienced in the role, or the job content and the capability of the employee within the role. Often with long term sickness it would be advisable to seek further assistance from an Occupational Health specialist and/or contact the employees GP.


Poor performance: If an employee has been identified as performing poorly, this needs to be addressed by their line manager to implement an improvement plan. For persistent poor performance employees should be taken down the capability or disciplinary route with escalation to higher management or HR when necessary.


If low morale is the symptom, the cause needs to be identified and help offered to improve personal development through managerial support, training and coaching. Frequent one-to-one appraisals and reviews will help managers to monitor and measure performance against objectives.


Commitments outside of work: What goes on outside of work may sometimes be hard for an employee to leave behind. Caring for children, or sick or elderly relatives can take its toll on performance, morale and health in general.


Addressing the work/life balance can pose a problem for many employees, but there are a number of solutions that can make life easier for employer and employee alike. Communication is key to establishing a way forward. For example consider making reasonable adjustments to working hours, exploring the possibility of a job-share arrangement or home-working.


Knowing which way to turn

When you’re managing a team, or running your own business, handling problem employees and employee problems can become a challenge. It’s essential that any issues are addressed and resolved efficiently and for the good of the business. At Partners in HR, we offer the expertise and helping hand that will ensure all employee problems and disciplinary issues are handled correctly and reach a satisfactory conclusion.


Speak to us the moment you identify an employee issue, or ask us about the procedures and policies you can put in place to reduce the risk of employee issues arising in the first place.


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