How Managers Can Address Poor Employee Behavior

During the holiday season, schedules can be intimidating and tensions can get high. Employees may be on edge and ready to snap or just get side-tracked and slack off. It's a tough time for managers to keep employees in check. You might have trouble finding the right balance between enforcing company policy and letting things slide for the sake of holiday cheer.

As we learned in Emotional Intelligence, use your best judgement and always make leadership a priority. If your employees are taking advantage of the season, it's your responsibility to confront your team. Use these tips to communicate to an employee that his or her behavior is not acceptable.  

Know Company Policy

When you first started your new role as a manager, you should have glanced through the employee handbook. If you haven't gotten the chance, request the policies from Human Resources. There might already be certain procedures established to confront difficult employees. Read through and make sure you're following protocol to the letter. Use existing standards to influence how to approach the situation.


Get The Facts Straight

If you didn't witness the behavior in question, make sure to verify that your intel is credible. If another employee is complaining about someone on your team, request evidence to support the claim. If you notice an employee acting out, make sure to fully assess the situation before taking action. Consider all factors including who else was involved and what might actually be at stake. Determine if the issue is even worth investigating further.


Be Discreet

Schedule a one-on-one conversation with the employee who misbehaved. Invite the person in for a private meeting and create a safe environment. Establish a space for honesty and objective evaluation, not judgement or ridicule. You don't want the employee to be on the defensive.

If there were other staff members involved, don't bring them into the conversation until you've heard from each person individually.

Ask each person individually to explain the situation in detail. You'll most likely receive additional information about all the variables involved. By hearing each person's perspective, you can find the core reason for the poor behavior.

Let's say an employee has been late for work every day for the past week. You've given him warnings that he needs to be on time, but he hasn't made an effort to be prompt. When confronted one-on-one,  he admitted he's been sleeping late due to exhaustion and then gets stuck in traffic. You asked why he felt exhausted and he confessed he's been having trouble balancing work responsibilities with family obligations. He can't seem to find the time to get everything done.

Focus on Solutions, Not Consequences

Unless the employee broke an actual law, sometimes punishment isn't the best way to prevent him from repeating poor behavior. Addressing the root cause of poor performance can be very effective. 

In our example, the root cause of the employee being late was a failing work-life balance. If you can find a compromise with him, he might feel less overwhelmed. Perhaps a better solution could be for him to work from home for the first couple hours of each day. Or perhaps he may not be working as efficiently as possible due to lagging technical issues bogging him down. Discover what factors will enable him to perform at his best and then meet in the middle.  

Document Everything

Make sure to keep a record of every conversation. Document the date, time, location and who all was present. Take notes or use an audio recorder to keep a record of the exact words spoken. Should the issue escalate, it's vital for you to provide accurate information.



Ask For Help

If the situation becomes too much for you to manage, request assistance from your superior or an HR manager. They will have more experience to deal with the issues appropriately. An outside objective opinion will also be necessary if you've become too emotionally attached to the situation. If you aren't able to stay level-headed and fair, then let someone else step in and take over.

Approach every problem as an opportunity to learn and grow. Be honest, use empathy and stand your ground. With carefully evaluation, you can restore the harmony within your team.


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