How to Better Manage the Top 3 “Bad” Employees


One of the most difficult challenges for new managers is how to effectively manage a “bad” employee. OK, let’s face it. This is one of the most difficult challenges for experienced managers as well!

There are three main ways employees can be “bad.”

• Underperforming
Employees who don’t apply themselves to the task or do the job well set the bar low for others. It is a manager’s responsibility to figure out why they are underperforming. Is it a matter of having a bad attitude, being poorly matched to the specific job, simple laziness, a lack of the skills needed to succeed or a personal issue?

• Negative
Some employees just can’t seem to find the good in others or are always down on the company. They are constantly criticizing or finding fault. Their toxic, snide attitude can be contagious just like a bad habit. Managers need to curb this behavior quickly before it infects others on the team.

• Disrespectful
Whether being disrespectful to colleagues or insubordinate to a superior, this kind of “bad” employee can poison the whole organizational culture. They make everyone uncomfortable, squelch open communication and, if directed toward the team leader, undermine the integrity of the team. This kind of behavior is harmful and needs correction as soon as possible.

So how do you go about correcting such behaviors? And is it worth it? It can be tempting to either ignore the problem or move the employee elsewhere. But this would be shirking your responsibility as a manager. Here is what to do:

1. Set up a one-on-one meeting
If this is a new behavior, try to find out what has changed for the employee. Is there something in their personal life that is affecting their performance? Maybe there has been a new team member that is causing stress? Be genuinely interested and focused on uncovering the root cause of the problem. And then, unemotionally, express how their attitude is affecting the team and productivity. Offer support but be straightforward in requiring that they improve. You cannot let the “bad” behavior continue. Make sure the employee knows that you are available to help.

2. Arrange a follow-up session to talk about what progress has been made.
If you are convinced the employee is trying to change their behavior for the better, continue to offer support and elicit the support of the team. However, if there has been no sincere effort made to improve, it may be time to consider termination. As a new manager, you will need to check with HR to comply with company policy. In general, these private sessions to manage employee performance should be carefully documented. Then there will be a record of how you handled the situation.

You were promoted to management because someone above you felt you had the “right stuff” to succeed in the role. You will be tested by difficult employee situations. Show that you can handle these challenges with tact, understanding, and a problem-solving approach.

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