Don't Ignore Your Problem Employees

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

Don't Ignore Your Problem Employees


Byline: Jim Pawlak

"How To Manage Problem Employees" by Glenn Shepard, John Wiley & Sons, $14.95.

The book starts with a timely reminder that a good manager (i.e. one who leads by example, one who is respected by her/his staff) seldom has problem employees.

The author's point: The management environment plays a major role in problem creation for the employee. A bad manager isn't going to be able to manage a problem employee because the manager is part of the problem.

When the manager doesn't appear to be the cause of the problem, he/she must still consider dealings with the problem employee to determine any contributing role (e.g. preferential treatment, not identifying areas requiring improvement, being too critical, picking the wrong battle, etc.).

If there was contributory negligence, a manager cannot take the author's direct, "you have to fix this" approach to dealing with the problem employee. Contribution requires a "we" approach to problem solving. The direct approach is recommended because it leaves no room for misinterpretation of the outcome expected. It can be a difficult transition for managers who like delivering bad news with powder puff words.

The approach also looks at the problems' impact on priorities. Ideally, the manager should pick easy "battles" and win quick victories. This sets the stage for progress.

Such situations may not be alternatives if the major problem with an employee is a roadblock to a priority.

What are some of the telltale signs of a problem employee? Increased absenteeism, a drop in work quality, irritability, lack of focus, not wanting to be part of the team, negative attitude. Don't ignore the signs; letting things slide won't make them go away. Dealing with issues as early as possible increases the likelihood of turnaround. …

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