The Problem Employee: Here Is What To Do Right Now

Posted by Bernie Reifkind on August 9, 2012

If you have ever managed anyone, than you know exactly what a problem employee is.  For those less enlightened, here are some traits of a problem employee:

  • extreme absenteeism
  • too many personal problems
  • too many excuses for average or poor performance
  • creating a morale problem with the staff
  • feeling entitled and complacency has set in
  • staff complaints
  • that “pit in your stomach” knowing that this employee is bad news

Of course, this list can go on forever.  The problem employee is a huge issue and no matter how hard it is or anxiety provoking it might be for an employer: action must be taken immediately.

Many employers live with a problem employee far longer than they in fact need to.  The reason may be fear. Fear of being sued, fear of confrontation, fear that the employee may know too much confidential company information, fear of not being able to replace the skill set that this person may have.  Fear can be a huge stumbling block to progress.

But keeping a problem employee is like having to carry a building on your back.

Here’s the good news.  It is not necessary to keep problem employees!  Unless an employee is contractually bound to a job, then an employer has every right to hire and fire anyone if it benefits the bottom line.

It is important to clearly realize that every employee is expendable.  Never forget that.  There may be some initial pain in getting rid of a problem employee but the long term result of removing this person is incalculable.

So here are 6 things to do right now about the problem employee:

1.  Remove your emotions (as best as you can) about your upcoming decision to terminate the problem employee.  This is strictly business.

2.  Long before a termination, create a paper trail every day, a journal or a daily log of issues and concerns, about the problem employee in the event that you need to defend your actions. 

3.  Warn the problem employee as often as possible as to the issues at hand.  In addition, put your warning in writing.  Let the employee see in writing the issues and if possible, have this employee sign the warning notice.  Then you as the employer will have written proof that the employee has been sufficiently warned.

4.  Tell no one in your immediate circle that there will be a termination.  Confidentiality is key to the stability of your staff.  Seeking re-assurance from out-side trusted sources and legal counsel is never a bad idea. The cost of sound legal advice is invaluable.

5.  Trust your gut feelings about this problem employee.  Know that keeping this employee is detrimental to your operation and that by not “doing the deed”, you are risking the loss of other key employees.  You are absolutely doing the right thing.

6.  Terminating an employee is never easy, especially an employee that has been a part of your organization for a long time.  To repeat, remove your emotions about terminating the problem employee, no matter what financial or emotional issues the employee is personally facing.  The problem employee has caused this action.  During the termination, be gentle but be firm and do not waiver.  The decision should be final and it should be communicated in that manner.

In summary, having the best human capital is vital to the success of any operation.  However, things change.  Organizations at some time or another may face a problem employee.  Inaction or failure to address a problem employee can slowly erode the success of your operation.

The time to act is right now. 

I am Bernie Reifkind, CEO and founder of Premier Search, Inc.  I can be reached at 1(800) 801-1400 or email at ceo@psihealth.com.  I welcome your phone call.

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