How Do You Handle Your Problem Employees?

Did you know only about 30% of the American workforce are actively engaged at work? That means most of your employee’s don’t come to work energized, excited to do good work. Gallup projects this lack of motivation costs US companies around $450 billion per year.


But this article isn’t about the 70% that just need some motivation, no it’s about the very bottom of your workforce - you’re “problem” employees.


Every organization, at one time or another, suffers from problem employees. In fact, one of the main reasons why people reach out to OutrightHR is because they want guidance for how to handle a poor performer, energy vampires or some other variation of a problem employee.

Problem employees create a ripple effect among all who work for you, your product and your product quality.


While every situation is unique, there are general principals you should follow:


Step 1: Have you done your job?


  • When an employee is failing you should first look at yourself and determine if you’ve given them the training and resources they need, as well as a clear understanding of their objectives and duties.


There are many leadership books and coaches who will give you various “tools” you can use to provide that clear understanding, but at the end of the day it all boils down to communication.

Most of us are guilty of the same mistake: we don’t have the tough conversations until they reach a boiling point. It’s easier to avoid the issue, or give our employees vague or sugar-coated requests. But, deciding to tackle the issue head on is always the best approach.


OutrightHR can help you structure those conversations, and we have a variety of tools that we like to use as well. Regardless of the tool you decide to use, the conversation should always be based on your desire to help the employee. Your goal is to fix behavior, not to punish. But, we can only do so much, some people just don’t want to change. If you’ve given clear guidance and the employee isn’t getting on the bus, well, then it’s time to move to step 2.


Step 2: Has your problem employee failed to correct their behavior?


  • If you’ve done your part and the employee continuously fails to meet standards, as a leader you must be loyal to the team and organization above the individual.


This is one of the hardest things to do as a leader. But you know it’s in the best interest of the company. If you continue to accept sub-par performance that will become the new standard. It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.


We understand how difficult this process can be. But, it is necessary to improve the culture of the entire organization.



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