How To Deal With Misbehaving Employees

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“It’s time for an attitude adjustment young lady/man.”  Those words bring back unpleasant childhood memories, but bosses should take cues from parents in the work place.

Misbehaving employees need a good talking to — even though it’s not an easy conversation for managers to have.

Should you tolerate a tough cookie, or make the difficult decision to let them go?

If you’re faced with this situation, the first thing to do is self-reflect.  Ask yourself, “Have I tried everything I can to help this person?”  The answer is usually a resounding “no.”

“Most managers react the same way when they come to the realisation that one of their people is a problem.” Pat Lencioni of BusinessWeek writes. “First, they find someone to vent to about it…On a courageous day, they might make a subtle comment to the difficult employee or, if their timing is lucky, be able to include something in an upcoming employee review. What they rarely do is sit down with that employee and tell the person, in no uncertain terms, that his attitude needs to change.”

Firing employees is a headache.  Possible lawsuits may ensue, coworkers can feel uneasy, and you’ll have to find and train someone else.  If a difficult conversation about an attitude adjustment will spare you this agony, then bite the bullet.

After all, don’t ask, don’t get.

Once you’ve spoken with the employee, one of three things will happen:

  1. The behaviour will change. This is a best case scenario, but it won’t happen without open communication.
  2. The employee will quit because they can’t get along with management.
  3. You’ll fire them and deal with the repercussions.

If you do find yourself pulling the plug, it’s not always a bad thing. It may be the only way to achieve a better work environment.  And, as BusinessWeek points out, the firing can send a message to the organisation about behaviour that won’t be tolerated, which is something most employees respect.

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