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Dealing with problematic employees

Dealing with problematic employees can be a time-consuming, expensive and stressful process for managers. The main reason employees are difficult or disruptive is this: If a person was difficult in their last job and got away with it, they feel that they can do it again.

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However, it is important to understand an employee may be disruptive without intending to be, and are completely unaware their behaviour is unacceptable. It’s therefore important to look at each situation individually and to handle it in a way that best fits the circumstances.

Disruptive employees

Employees who don’t fully understand their job are more likely to become disruptive – they may be so de-motivated by this that they start to refuse to do certain tasks that are part of their responsibilities. In these cases providing refresher training could be the key to changing their attitude.

By being able to do their job efficiently and correctly, their confidence will increase and they become less likely to refuse to work. Bullying in the workplace creates a bad atmosphere which can affect other employees working with them. It is important any cases of bullying are identified at an early stage, and to fully investigate any allegations of bullying – usually by interviewing the alleged bully, the victim(s) and any colleagues who may have witnessed incidents. If the complaint is upheld, depending o n the severity of the case, the bully should either be given a formal disciplinary warning or be dismissed. 

Persistent absence

Workers who take days off sick cost the UK economy £6.5 billion a year. All employees should understand that attendance is important, that their attendance will be monitored and that lengthy periods of ill health or persistent absenteeism could lead to disciplinary action. 

The correct way for an employer to handle the situation will depend largely on whether the absence is long-term or has an underlying cause – in which case capability and potentially disability discrimination are the issues –  or  persistent short-term “sickies”. This may amount to misconduct or give the employer some other substantial reason to dismiss.

Social media misuse 

Nowadays, one of the biggest headaches for management is employees who misuse Twitter and Facebook.  Employees badmouthing their boss or complaining about how much they hate their job – for all the world to see – can damage a company’s reputation hugely.

Blocking social networking sites, or restricting the use of social media during working hours, are often insufficient safeguards on their own. This can’t always be arranged satisfactorily. A properly formulated social media policy, containing clear user guidelines, will help to protect the company from misuse both inside and outside of work.

Conduct with clients 

If employees are rude to clients, this can be hugely damaging to your reputation. The damage occurs quickly, and word travels fast. This can cause a company to be blacklisted by prospective clients and to lose existing ones.

Make sure to identify employees who have had disagreements with clients, or are short-tempered with colleagues and their managers. Tell them that their behaviour needs to change rapidly, otherwise they risk damaging their professional reputation. Consider disciplinary action for severe incidents or if the behaviour doesn’t improve.

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If you're having to deal with a disruptive employee, find out how the Forum can help. Members get unlimited access to an employment law helpline and a practical employment law guide, backed up by legal expenses insurance to protect you from employment tribunals. Call us on 0845 130 1722 to find out more.