“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult, but not dealing with them can be worse”
~ Paul Foster

With deference to the 1970 Donny Osmond smash hit, “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.” (If you have no clue who or what I’m talking about, ask your parents. That’s what I did.)

One bad, negative, toxic member of a team can certainly have an impact on the rest of the group. Whether it’s someone who’s constantly late, complains about everything, starts rumors, talks about people behind their backs, gossips endlessly, always has to be right, or never pulls their fair share of the workload (stop me when you’ve heard enough, I’m just venting). We all have worked with them and managed them, and how you handle these situations will set the tone for expectations in many different areas.

According to this article on Forbes.com, 93% of people who work on a team do so with at least one person who doesn’t do his or her fair share. And only 10% have confronted an under-performing coworker on a team.

This negativity can result in poor employee performance, bad morale amongst the team, as well as higher rates of turnover, absenteeism and productivity. It can also have an adverse effect on customer satisfaction and ultimately a decline in revenue.

What’s a teammate, supervisor, manager or boss to do? One option is to do nothing and hope the situation gets better, but seriously, who are we kidding? Has that approach ever worked? By doing nothing, you are letting the rest of the team know you will accept this behavior.

If there is an HR department, that might be a good place to start, as they should be able to offer suggestions on the proper way to approach this problem. If there is no HR department, that’s when it might get a little tricky.

If there is one member of the team who can talk to this person one on one, letting them know how their actions are affecting the rest of the team, that’s a good place to start. It should be a calm, non-accusatory conversation. Don’t approach the situation angry and judgmental. Be curious. Stick with the facts. See if this person even realizes the situation. It could be they have no idea how their actions are affecting the team, likewise it could be there are personal family problems at home that no one in the office knew about. See if an amicable solution can be found.

Above all else, it is important to listen to what the employee has to say. Maybe they just need to vent a little.

If that does not solve the problem, it is time for a manager to hold a group meeting letting everyone on the team know what the expectations are of the company, the core values, the company culture and to review rules, regulations and policies that govern these actions.

If the problem remains, it is time for a one-on-one conversation between a manager or supervisor with the problem employee, discussing exactly how their actions are affecting the team, and what the expectations are going forward. If it is a time issue (arriving late, leaving early), make sure both parties agree in writing what the results should look like. It can be an Action Plan, or as we used to call it, a Performance Opportunity Log (POL). Both parties should initial or sign the paper, acknowledging that a conversation has taken place and what the objectives will be. If the problem continues, the disciplinary process should take place. It is important to document everything for the future.

It’s also important that job descriptions as well as performance reviews cover behavior competencies, which should include communication, collaboration and dependability.

If this does not rectify the situation, it may be time for the problem employee to seek employment somewhere else where their talents will be more appreciated.

A team is only as good as its weakest link, so it’s important for everyone to pull their weight. Customers can see and sense when employees are not happy, and this certainly affects the bottom line and the morale of the company. If the employees who are doing their jobs see that others can get away with less than what is expected, you may be losing them to companies that expect the best from everyone.

As a leader, you need to be committed to your company values, and expect the same from your employees. Anything less will cause problems that will cost you dearly in terms of time and money.

Take care of that bad apple before it spoils the whole bunch.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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