Turnaround or Terminate? How to Deal with Problem Employees

Use Platinum Rule with employees and treat others as they would like to be treated.

Do you struggle with a "problem" employee? If so, join the crowd! Many of my coaching clients - businesses owners or managers - tear their hair out over one or more toxic employees. In our business environment, we tend to recreate the dynamics of the family we grew up, so no wonder problems develop.

It's amazing often a business owner or manager will endure a "problem" employee, unable to help the employee make positive changes and unable to fire them when necessary. Tolerating a problem employee is like walking around with a sliver in your foot - highly irritating, but you can kind of get used to it. Then, when you finally pull it out, you can't believe the relief! That relief generally comes in one of two ways: either you and your employee are able to make some mutual improvements, or you part ways.

I recommend a two step approach to this issue. First, you do whatever can be done to turn the situation around. Very often, you may have made a few half-hearted attempts to resolve the situation, but feel lost at sea about what else can be done. You must address the issues directly, calmly and clearly with the employee. Expectations must be set, problems and solutions explored. Check in regularly with the employee to monitor progress.

On a more powerful level, the turnaround can result when you learn your own and your employee's behavioral style. I like to use the Platinum Rule assessment, developed by Dr. Tony Alessandra. It's inexpensive ($30 - $50), easy to understand and extremely powerful in helping us understand our own and others' behavior. Your style and this employee's style probably differ. (For more information on the Platinum rule, visit: http://www.authentic-alternatives.com/platinumrule.htm)

The Golden Rule advises you to treat others as you would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule advances this to the next level and suggests that you treat others as they would like to be treated. Your "problem" employee may be - and probably is - a different style than you. The Platinum Rule shows us four core behavioral styles (Relater, Socializer, Thinker and Director) and gives us many concrete tactics of how we can flex to meet the other person's style. I have seen near miracles occur - the proverbial light bulbs go off - when my clients use this assessment to better understand themselves and their employees and co-workers.

The second step of the two-step approach: suppose you've fully implemented the first step (turnaround) and the situation remains unacceptable. Now it's firing time, and because I bet you care about other people, you know that it's one of the most unwanted and difficult tasks an owner or manager faces. I encourage my clients to remember that a business or organization cannot afford to carry an unproductive and toxic employee. An employee person unwilling or unable to make the necessary improvements must be sent to find an employment situation that fits them better. This does not make you an evil or uncompassionate human being.

So pull out "the sliver" and create a positive, unstoppable team. The number one key to professional success is the quality of the people you surround yourself with - employees, colleagues, spouse, friends. Life speeds by, so remove the rocks from your river and let it flow forward, full force. If you can't turn around a problem employee, you must let them go. It's not your fault and if you want your business to flourish, and you will at times find you have to terminate.

Anne Alexander is a coach who works with business owners, executives and professionals as their strategic partner to grow their business or career, improve their effectiveness and become powerful managers. For Anne's free, popular 8 part e-course "Maximize Your Professional Success," send a blank email to [email protected] or visit : http://www.authentic-alternatives.com/platinumrule.htm.