The Owner’s Calendar – A Positive Approach for Dealing with “That Employee” in 2015

By Jeff Wilkie, Consulting Executive and Human Capital and Organizational Strategies Practice Lead

Every organization has at least one: that employee who routinely under-performs or exhibits flat-out bad behavior. Hoping they see the light and fix themselves has not worked, and you can sense the rest of your team is wondering when you are going to step up and take action. Let’s make 2015 be the year we learn to deal with “That Employee.”

Employees may become difficult for a variety of reasons: their problem behavior may have benefitted them in the past, they may not know any other behavior, or they may choose this behavior only at times they think it will be most effective. In addition, those of us who fundamentally hate conflict may never have confronted them about their negative behaviors. Finally, they may never have been given clear expectations regarding what they can do to perform at a high level.

When determining the behaviors you want to address, you must evaluate the situation by asking: – what is REALLY driving these behaviors? And it’s best to act as quickly as possible when you first notice these behaviors, in order to “catch the eagle in flight.” Addressing issues right away keeps them fresh for both parties – making the feedback timely and relevant.

A Five Step Process

Employ a simple five-step process for discussing good or bad behaviors with employees. This process will guide you to focus more on the issues than on the person, and will become easier when practiced regularly.

Step 1 – Convey your intent with the employee. Open with a statement intended to discipline the behavior. You could say, “I want to share something with you that may be prohibiting your forward momentum in the organization.”

Step 2 – Discuss what you saw or heard. Do your homework. Always act on facts. Focus your comments on the “what and how” of the situation that occurred, not on gossip or rumor. If you have not seen the inappropriate behavior yourself, look into it. Don’t use the fact that you haven’t personally seen the inappropriate behavior as an excuse to delay doing something. If someone else noticed the behavior, be sure to discuss it.

Step 3 – Share the impact of the behavior on Y-D-O. What impact is it having on you, the department, and the organization itself? When you show the employee that his behavior is affecting more than just himself, he should be more motivated to change.

Step 4 – Allow time for them to process and respond. Many times, we want to immediately prescribe how he should improve, telling him exactly what to do and when, as well as the consequence if we don’t see change. However, the employee must first own his behavior. Allow him to talk and to explain his position. Ask for their input on what he can do to change his behavior, and, ask him to help you develop an action plan.

Step 5 – Work together on an action plan. As a leader, you intuitively know the value of planning. This situation is no different. You need a plan for creating and sustaining the correct behavior, as well as communicating the consequences for not changing. Work together to set clear expectations and goals and make sure to follow through on timelines and milestones if the employee doesn’t keep commitments.

When having this discussion, environment is important. Select a quiet, private place where you won’t be interrupted. Practice with a colleague who will agree to pretend to be the employee you must talk to.

Situations will not be improved or sustained if we don’t take the first step in dealing constructively and assertively with our most important asset – Human Capital.