No one I know, least of all yours truly, likes being called on the proverbial carpet. But it's the bosses who have a worn spot in that rug in front of their desks who may be on to something. Like keeping more employees around longer — not to mention avoiding nasty workplace lawsuits.
The managers of small- to mid-sized fleets who get by without cumbersome human-resource departments to do the dirty work of hiring and firing can benefit the most from reconsidering how to handle so-called problem employees.
Of course, the hard cases-the guy on the loading dock creating “shrinkage” as he sweats or the bookish old lady in accounting who's embezzling the firm blind-need to get the boot as soon as they are uncovered.
But if you want to keep a business running, especially one that truly runs on people like a truck fleet, you just can't can everyone you'd like to no matter how much you'd love to.
What may work best for garden-variety pests such as run-of-the-mill slackers or those constitutionally opposed to respecting your authority is to lay it on the line for them. A few times, if need be.
If you call them in and let them know where they stand on your carpet — privately and without undue rage-you at least stand the chance of bringing them around to your way of thinking without having to resort to a one-way ticket out the door.
It may be hard to believe, especially for anyone born into management or who left the rank and file ages ago, but many problem employees don't really know what pains they are to you or others under your command.
Of course, once you put them on notice then it truly is up to them to change their ways or expect the boot down the road.
If it works out-if they straighten up and fly right as the old song goes-then you have solved the problem of a problem employee without the fuss of firing and the expense of hiring and training a replacement.
As someone who has been no one's boss for quite some time, allow me to bring in an expert with some pointers. Elizabeth Gaudio, senior attorney for the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation, offers three straightforward tips on how to deal with problem employees:
Explain the obvious
“Employees must understand what behavior is expected of them. Outlining what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior provides the framework with which to evaluate an employee's performance and provide discipline if necessary. Businesses should also document a discipline policy and code of conduct and each employee should receive a copy.”
Evaluate employees regularly
“Written documentation of specific employee misbehavior (like absence or tardiness) is the best defense against discrimination claims. It's important to be honest. It's also helpful to include employees in the process — use the evaluation as an opportunity to set goals and specific deadlines together.”
“Be proactive. Addressing poor performance is uncomfortable for you and your employee. But by addressing things early on, the business will benefit in the long run with improved employee performance, increased morale and protection against potentially costly litigation. Termination shouldn't be a surprise. It should be a culmination of progressive discipline.”
Gaudio says that clearly defined expectations and early intervention can save time and stress “and help decrease the chances that a minor employee problem will snow-ball into a major complication.”
Better to have them sweat it out a bit on the carpet now then melt into a litigious rage later.