Many business owners and managers struggle with addressing employee behavior. That struggle often stems from a fear of conflict, whether that conflict is in confronting the individual employee or creating a larger issue of conflict within the organization as a whole. But if an owner or manager simply ignores a behavior issue because they’re scared to confront it, a minor issue can quickly turn into a major issue on its own. Any behavior issue can typically be classified as one of two things: poor job performance or policy negligence. How you handle it will differ based on the type.
Poor Job Performance
If the issue is one of job performance, it’s likely you already know your employee can do the job but something has changed that has impacted their performance. Before you jump straight into disciplinary action, it’s important to take a step back and try to identify the cause of the current issue.
What has changed? Did you add a new employee to the department? Are there vacant positions that mean other employees are working extra hours? Did you change their job duties or title? Is there something going on in their personal life that may be affecting their work? This could include moving, relationship troubles, or caring for an elderly parent.
There are an infinite number of things that impact an employee’s job performance negatively. That doesn’t excuse the poor performance—it’s still something you need to address—but it’s helpful to identify the cause before you jump into solutions.
The first step in dealing with poor job performance is a discussion with the employee. It could be that they need additional training in a specific area of their job, or maybe there’s a conflict with a fellow employee that you can help resolve. As a supervisor, it’s your job to help the employee get back on track, which you can do by creating a clear, concise path. This is typically accomplished through a performance improvement plan, which identifies clear goals and a specific timeline to achieve them.
As an owner or supervisor, it’s especially critical to address issues of poor job performance as early as possible, since it’s much more cost effective to get that employee back on track than to spend time hiring and training a new employee.
Policy negligence, on the other hand, is strictly business. If you have properly onboarded your employees, everyone should know what’s expected of them from a policy standpoint. If policies are being broken, whether it’s showing up late or defying the dress code repeatedly, you need to address it immediately.
While poor job performance is generally isolated to one individual and may have some repercussions for a few teammates, policy negligence can quickly spread to negatively impact your entire team. Those employees who regularly follow policy can quickly become frustrated when policies aren’t enforced consistently. They may stop following policies as well, but the more likely scenario is they get frustrated to the point of finding a new job.
For the most part, policy negligence is a pretty clear-cut issue: you have a written policy and someone is clearly violating it. If you don’t talk to that employee and hold them accountable to your policies, it will have ten times the effect in negative return. Before you know it, employee morale will plummet and your organization will suffer. We have seen policy negligence spread like a virus so many times, and it truly can bring an organization down.
Policy creates the environment of the company, and you should never compromise that. When you compromise policy, you’re compromising your own ethics as a business owner. Your policies and how you enforce them must be clear, concise, and consistent. If someone repeatedly shows up late, that needs to be documented in writing. Same goes for dress code violations, inappropriate use of language, and anything else in your policy.
Employee behavior issues need to be addressed, but it’s important to recognize whether the issue is job performance or policy negligence and respond accordingly. Don’t avoid the issue because you want to avoid conflict. Identify the issue, take the necessary action, and move forward with your employees.
If you need help identifying and addressing poor job performance or policy negligence, WhyHR can help. Contact us today for more information.