How Can Managers Discipline Difficult Employees?
Many years ago as a new, young administrator, I experienced supervising staff members who were hard working, cooperative, and dedicated. These staff members were team players and understood the goals of our organization. It was easy for me the new, young administrator to interact with them. However, I also experienced supervising staff members who were challenging, combative and uncommitted. These staff members posed an issue for me because I did not know how to work with them, communicate with them and most importantly lead them. Quite frankly, the only thing I knew how to do was to avoid the situation.
Disciplining employees is never easy. Avoiding the situation is not a solution. It only causes the situation to exacerbate and cause you as the manager to lose creditability with your staff members. Difficult employees must be addressed through progressive discipline. Progressive discipline is series of actions used by the employer to improve an employee’s performance over a period of time. Follow the steps below:
- Schedule a conference with the employee. Set a specific date and time so the tone of conference is formal. Discuss with the employee your concerns. Stick to the facts and the actual behavior and/or actions of the employee. This is not the time for personal feelings. Maintain eye contact while speaking. Allow time for the employee to provide an explanation. Guide the employee to create a SMART goal(s) as a means to solve the issue and/or concern. Close the conference with the employee understanding that you are supportive of the employee reaching the aforementioned goal(s) but if the goal(s) is not reached further disciplinary actions may incur.
- Document the conference. Documentation may mean a formal letter to the employee outlining the conference or a notation to yourself about the conference for future reference.
- Monitor and document the employee’s progress.
- If the employee is demonstrating improvement, provide positive feedback to the employee.
- If the employee is not demonstrating improvement, schedule another conference. This conference must be documented in a formal letter. Clearly outline the additional facts and what was discussed in the previous conference(s). The employee must understand that harsher discipline actions will be taken if there is no improvement. Fully explain your company/organization’s policy of progressive discipline and your obligation as a manager to adhere to this policy.
Despite your years served in a managerial position, it is never easy to proceed with disciplinary actions against an employee. It is a detailed and daunting task. Nevertheless, if implemented correctly, the employee is given numerous opportunities to improve.
Dorothy C. Handfield is the Founder/Owner of DCH Consulting Services, LLC. As a Career Consultant/Coach, I assist highly qualified candidates get their dream job and keep it.
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