Guest blogger and trusted business associate, Bill Boyer, is the President of CEO Focus of Tidewater, a consulting/coaching organization for small company CEOs. He can be reached at or (757) 233-2577.

CEO Focus of TidewaterManaging people is never easy, and some employees make it even more difficult.  These challenging employees can try your patience and take a lot of your time and energy.  It requires skillful management to turn these employees around and make them into productive workers.

Before you begin to deal with a problematic situation, you must first evaluate yourself.  Be sure you have assessed the situation honestly and that your judgments are objective.  Take a step back and focus on the employee’s behavior or attitude and try to identify why this is a problem. While there may be additional issues, you must focus on job-related issues only.

Before you deal with the employee, be sure you have fully investigated the situation.  Without all the facts, your perceptions could be in error.  Be sure you are following all of the procedures in your company manual.  Ensure there are no legal implications.  It is always much safer to check out potential legal or policy issues before having any discussion with your employee.

When you address the issue with your employee, state your willingness to help solve the issue.  Stay focused on the issue. Often, people try to change the subject so that the issue will not be addressed.  Stay firm:  do not let this discussion become conversational.  You must keep emotion out of the conversation.  Explain your concerns and always give specific examples.  Ask the individual for suggestions to help with the problem before making your suggestions.  Never criticize the employee or any other people that may be involved.

Some of the more common problems that you could encounter are:

  • Cooperation – Explain that you expect cooperation and that their behavior will be a factor in evaluations.  Ask for explanations, but be sure to emphasize that every member of a team is responsible for the smooth functioning of the whole team.
  • Attendance – Review the company attendance policy and explain the consequences of future attendance problems.  Be sure the employee knows that in the future all attendance issues will be documented and that progressive discipline will be applied.
  • Poor Performance – First, be sure that the employee fully understands the expectations of the job.  It is best that the expectations be written, preferably in their job description; a fresh copy can be given to him/her during your discussion.  Ask yourself if the individual has adequate training, skills and knowledge necessary for the job.  Once you have established that the employee should be qualified for the job, explain to him/her the deficiencies you are observing and inform them of the corrective measures they must take.  Give them a time frame within which to correct their performance.
  • Anger – Explain to the individual why expressing anger is a problem on the job.   Determine whether the anger is being caused by job related issues and correct those issues if possible.  It is your responsibility to provide all employees with a safe working environment.  If necessary, recommend professional assistance.
  • Personal Issues – This is probably one of the most difficult.  The most effective action you can take is to explain to the individual how their response to their personal issues is impacting the workplace, and  that this impact cannot be allowed to continue.  Again, you may need to recommend professional assistance.

During the discussion, be sure to consider their side of the story.  They may be feeling unappreciated or unfairly treated by you or someone else on the management team.  There could be problems with co-workers that you are not aware of.  They could also have a legitimate concern or question that you may not have considered.  There could be outside problems or distress that you are not aware of.  We would hope that personal issues are not a factor, but these can occur and can impact performance on the job.

The most important step is to follow up.  Be sure the problem has been solved.  Give positive feedback to the employee, pointing out improvements and continuing to point out any remaining problems, if any.  It is essential to continue to monitor the situation until you are sure the change is permanent.

Finally, prevention is much more effective than a good cure.  A good working environment can minimize, or prevent, the development of problem situations.  Encourage mutual respect in your organization, be a good role model yourself, provide adequate support to your staff, and be positive in feedback.

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