Dealing with Problem Employees
For most CNC machine shops and company manufacturing departments, the secret to improving productivity and profitability lies in applying the right technologies and relying on a conscientious, knowledgeable workforce. Therefore, if you have a problem employee the impact can be quite serious. Ignoring a worker’s bad habits or inappropriate actions not only affects the performance of the problem employee, it can also undermine the morale of the rest of your staff. So how do you go about fixing the problem? Here are some proven techniques.
- Define the problem. Obviously, if you have proof that the employee is engaged in illegal or other activities considered firing offenses in your company’s code of conduct, you’ll likely want to terminate him or her immediately. In most cases, however, problem employees are either underperforming, or displaying negative behaviors toward the job, fellow employees or managers. In either of these cases, it’s time to have a formal discussion with the worker.
- Identify the causes. Clearly you can’t fix a problem until you know its root cause. If sub standard performance is the issue, the employee needs to let you know why they believe they are underachieving. Is it lack of training? Poor supervision? Misunderstood priorities? Or are they simply clueless? If the problem is a poor attitude or bad behavior toward others, you need to find out if there are mitigating circumstances, such as a personality clash between the employee and the supervisor or a fellow worker. Once you have a handle on the underlying causes, you can take action.
- Develop a written action plan. If performance is the issue, draw up a time-bound plan through which you and the employee will knock down any barriers to success by providing such tools as additional training or better defining performance criteria. The goal is to clearly outline the steps the employee must take, define how you will measure success, and establish consequences if the employee does not meet your goals.
- Define appropriate behaviors. In the case of poor attitude, disrespect for management and other employees or other non-performance issues, you should inform the employee, in writing, of what acceptable behavior looks like in your company. Be very specific about how the employee’s behavior is out of line and what will happen if it doesn’t change. This, of course, assumes that you have no reason to believe that the employee’s poor behavior is a response to unfair treatment by others in the organization.
- Get it in writing. Be sure to carefully document any performance action plans and the subsequent steps taken, as well as any corrective actions you take. If you choose to terminate an underperforming employee or one with attitude problems, this documentation may help protect the company against legal action.
If your company has a human resources department, they should have procedures and policies in place for dealing with problem employees. If not, it may be wise to use an outside firm that specializes in such matters to create such standards for your organization.