Dealing with problem employees

Whether you're faced with a personality clash or poor timekeeping, dealing with staff problems early on can save stress.

Whether you’re faced with a personality clash or poor timekeeping, dealing with staff problems early on can save stress.

Whether you’re faced with a personality clash or poor timekeeping, dealing with staff problems early on can save time and stress. Astrid Yarwood, service director at NorthgateArinso Employer Services, explains how to deal with problem employees and resolve staff problems through both a formal and an informal approach.

An informal approach

Never underestimate the value of a straightforward chat. Set aside the time to do this properly and make sure you address the following points.

•    Redefine expectations
Clarify the required standards, what you expect from the employee and what they expect from the job. Sometimes it can be as simple as revisiting a job description.

•    Locate areas of concern
It is for you as an employer to consider any areas an employee is struggling with, as well as setting out clearly any concerns you have and what he or she should be doing about it.

•    Get to the root of the issue
Try to establish the likely causes of poor performance. Are there problems at home or problems in the workplace? Another colleague causing concern?

•    Identify any gaps in training
If new procedures have been introduced in the workplace, it may take some longer than others to get to grips with them. It may be that an employee feels inadequate because they haven’t had enough training.

•    Set and review targets
When dealing with problematic employees set targets for improvement and review these periodically. Four weeks is a reasonable timeframe to assess progress. It is also a good idea to make a note of these informal meetings, just in case you need to refer back to them.

A formal approach

If the informal approach isn’t going to work for you then you may have to consider the formal procedure. Before embarking on this, you need to make sure you have robust policies in place to protect yourself legally. Ideally all your employees should have handbooks with information on the procedures you are going through, as well as a contract of employment, setting out what they are required to do in this situation. Also consider taking professional advice.

•    Start with an investigation
An investigation will give you the framework to build an allegation against an employee. If you find that there isn’t enough evidence, stop and don’t consider pursuing it any further. Once you are on the course of a formal procedure you will generally have to complete it.

•    Disciplinary hearing
The employer should be invited to the disciplinary hearing in writing. They have the right to be accompanied to the hearing and they should be given at least 24 hours’ notice. The hearing should give the employee the opportunity to explain any mitigating circumstances. As the employer you should put your allegations and concerns to them and consider their response.

•    The outcome
You may decide at the disciplinary hearing that you will not pursue the formal procedure any further, in which case you can end it there without completing it. If you are pursuing the formal procedure you should confirm the outcome and the penalty and sanctions you are imposing and offer the employee a right of appeal.

Whichever route you choose, the earlier you take action, the better.

Nick Britton

Lexus Ernser

Nick was the Managing Editor for when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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