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Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to Deal with a Problem Employee, Part One

 

Part 1: Identifying the Problem

Outrageous behavior in the workplace obviously needs to be addressed with swift disciplinary action.  However, problems with an employee’s soft skills can be harder for employers to identify and address.  This blog post is Part One in a two part series outlining how employers can effectively minimize the damage while identifying and dealing with problem employees.

The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Soft skills - qualities such as a good work ethic and positive attitude - are harder to quantify than hard skills, such as a diploma or certification.  However, problem employees that have issues with soft skills should not be overlooked, as intangibles such as a chronically negative attitude have a real impact on your company’s bottom line, customer satisfaction and the ability to retain other employees.  This is especially true in a small business where employees are often required to wear many hats, need to maintain flexibility and work together.  As I’ve written about before, building a successful team is more than just hiring the most qualified employees.   In fact, some industry experts claim that small businesses should place equal emphasis on soft and hard skills when hiring new employees.   

How can an employer identify a lack (or deterioration) of soft skills that will negatively impact the workplace and require intervention? Warning signs you may have a problem employee on your hands include:

  • Chronically negative attitude

  • Apathy or indifference

  • Procrastination

  • Lack of decision making and problem solving

  • Rudeness, lack of respect

  • Emotional outbursts

  • Escalating office politics with gossip

  • Frequent issues due to poor communication

  • Attendance issues, including recurring tardiness, inappropriately long breaks and missed days

These characteristics create a toxic work environment, provoking frustration with co-workers and bringing work to a grinding halt. 

Step one when dealing with a problem employee is using the list of characteristics above to identify the person.  Step two is strategically addressing the behavior.  Because soft skills are more intangible than hard skills, employers are often stymied on how to effectively – and legally – address the problems listed above.  The key to success is identifying how these characteristics can manifest into performance issues, which can be measured.  For recommendations on how to translate soft skills into documentable events that can be tracked, read Part 2 of How to Deal with a Problem Employee.

An experienced employment law attorney can help your business minimize exposure to costly lawsuits and lost productivity by ensuring you have a solid framework of policies and procedures designed to effectively address problem employees. If you have questions, or would like an employment law attorney to review your existing job descriptions and policies, contact Megan Pearson today at mpearson@smithwelchlaw.com or call 770-957-3937.

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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