Small companies aren't immune from workplace behavior problems. Here's what to do about them.
Here are five types of problem employees and what to do about them.
1. The Poor Fit. Bibby Gignilliat, 51, chief executive of Parties that Cook in San Francisco, thought she had hired a winner but found her new employee's customer-service skills far from polished. "She kept saying things were 'awesome' and 'totally cool' and she would use 'like' every other word, even after repeated coaching, making a bad impression on customers," Gignilliat says.
Employers need to make sure their expectations are clear through written policies and performance reviews, Guerin says.
2. The Disappearing Act. Sometimes, problematic behavior crops up in connection with troubles emerging in an employee's personal life. For example, several months after Pac Team America president Eric Zuckerman, 30, gave a new employee time off to recover from injuries in a car accident, she was arriving late to work, leaving early, and sometimes sneaking away at midday for long naps from his Paramus, N.J., merchandise display company. After unsuccessfully trying to discuss the problem with her several times to find solutions to accommodate her, he eventually had to fire her.
Remember: Employees with a personal or family health issue may be eligible for certain types of leave, depending on the situation and the workplace's state.
3. The Scofflaw: Randy Cohen, 46, thought he had hired a new employee who fit the energetic, open culture of his Austin, Texas, ticket brokerage, TicketCity. But soon the employee routinely ignored policy and procedures. Cohen found himself constantly correcting the young salesperson's behavior so that he didn't alienate customers. "He made the company a bunch of money, but he was a pain," says Cohen. Over the past 21 years, Cohen says he's had other employees who've bucked the rules, including drinking on the job.
Cohen now has a policy of "firing fast" when he finds an employee who isn't willing to follow rules. Legally speaking, an employee who engages in reckless behavior, such as driving dangerously or drinking on the job, can leave the employer liable for the actions within the "course and scope of employment." So, if you learn that an employee is behaving in a way that could put others at risk, immediately investigate the situation and impose discipline, if appropriate, Guerin says.
4. The Sour Apple: Negative employees who bad-mouth the company and its leadership to fellow employees and even customers can disrupt morale. Cohen found one in his ranks after learning about the naysayer from other employees. Eventually the person left the company, but he says he wouldn't be as tolerant again. "Someone like that can really hurt morale," he says.
Discontented employees who bad-mouth the company and its leadership to fellow employees and even customers can take a toll. Any small company might, as part of its growing pains, have a slipup that's more apparent to workers inside the company than outsiders. But excessive public grousing by an employee needs to be stopped.
5. The Filcher: Regardless of their diligence in pre-hire screening, employers occasionally discover illegal activity by their employees. Vonda White, 46, recalls having an unsettling feeling about an employee at her Tarpon Springs, Fla., insurance-brokerage firm Collegiate Risk Management. He demonstrated a negative attitude and seemed distant in his day-to-day dealings with her. Eventually she discovered he had copied the company's database and was trying to help a friend launch a competing company, White says.
As a general rule, direct, clear communication is the key to dealing with most employee problems, says Guerin. Once you discover a problem, it's critical to take action instead of letting it fester and get worse