When Staff Cause Big Problems For Small Businesses…

The smaller a company, the more impact – positive or negative – each employee will have on it’s overall performance. For a tiny acorn of a company, with an employee count that could be performed with one hand, troublesome staff can impact the P/L like a ferocious comet.

In this article we’ll explore the choices that SME owners have when faced with troublesome employees who just wont pull their weight:

  • Prevention is better than cure – pick staff members with the utmost care. Good companies understand the importance of effective staff selection. Make sure your employee selection process is robust and thorough. Interview questions should aim to unearth key hints about the candidates ability, knowledge, personality and ultimate suitability. References and qualifications should be checked. If you’re hiring people based on a criteria sketched on the back of an old invoice, you’re surely courting trouble.
  • Prepare a detailed contract of rights and responsibilities before the staff member begins work. It’s far easier to exercise company rights and expectations when the employees duties and responsibilities are clearly noted in black and white.
  • Ensure there are no personal issues that might be causing the employee to perform poorly. If you’re dealing with a staff member causing a problem for the first time, there could be a reasonable explanation that may be solved with a bit of mutual understanding and common sense. Employees are human beings – they are prone to things like illness, depression or other personal circumstances that can affect their short term performance. Providing moral support and understanding during troubled times can result in a more understanding and motivated employee later on.
  • Communicate with the employee with dignity. If there are no external personal issues causing poor performance or bad behavior, deal with the staff member in private. The first contact should be stern yet fair – explain the problem as you see it, and stay away from admonishing or scolding the staff member in front of peers. Give the problem member of staff every opportunity to correct their errant behavior or performance by themselves.
  • If after a fair, informal chat the problem persists then further action will be needed. The first of these should be a formal written warning that explains the problems and demands a resolution within a specified time frame. The threat of clearly defined further action should be made within the written warning. Your company should have some protocol to follow to help you do this – and that protocol should be in accordance with the law and not infringing on the employees statutory employment rights. Again, back of an envelope style procedures just wont do, as you’re dealing with legal issues that could potentially end up in front of a tribunal or court – it’s incumbent for your SME to be able to prove that a proper and lawful framework has been followed in dealing with the problem employee.
  • Finally, if after a fair dosage of verbal and documented written warnings, the behavior of the employee still has not improved, an SME owner may be left with little alternative but to terminate the workers contract and employment.

Unfortunately, dealing with problem employees is one of those unpleasant tasks that most SME owners will have to confront from time to time. Following the above advice will ensure that the correct procedures are used to identify potential problems, provide support where required or, worse comes to worst, take disciplinary action and contract termination are handled correctly.