We hear the expression “how quickly time flies” all the time. It could be said regarding the changing seasons, when looking at your kids, or when an anniversary sneaks up on you. It does feel like time is speeding up, and there are not enough hours in the week for business owners to get everything done on their to-do lists.
As a business owner, one of your primary responsibilities is to protect your business and ensure its long-term success. This involves various responsibilities such as financial management, customer satisfaction, and strategic planning. However, one crucial but often overlooked is addressing employees who do not perform up to standards or display problematic behavior and attitudes. Ignoring these issues can have detrimental consequences, affecting employee morale and productivity and exposing your company to legal risks. I recently had several conversations with business owners facing some of these challenges. I must remind them that leadership can be complicated and people are messy. But it does not have to be messy if you have the right tools in your toolbox.
I talk a lot about the positive aspects and importance of leadership training, training for new managers, and DiSC® training for your team to help them understand how to work together. Today, I will take a different approach and paint the picture of what happens when you do not address “the elephant in the room,” otherwise known as the problem employee.
Maintaining Workplace Standards
Allowing underperformance, bad behavior, or poor attitudes to persist sends a message to other employees that such conduct is acceptable. This tolerance can lead to a decline in workplace standards. Employees may begin to believe that their actions have no real impact on their employment status, leading to decreased motivation and engagement. The result can ultimately harm productivity, teamwork, and the organization’s overall culture, which impact your bottom line.
Protecting Talented Employees
High-performing and talented employees are valuable assets to any business and usually the most critical and largest line item in your budget! When you ignore the issues caused by underperforming or disruptive employees, you risk losing talented individuals who may become frustrated with the lack of action taken against their underperforming peers. I have seen many employees leave their positions when an employee’s bad behavior or performance issues are allowed to continue and permeate the company. Think of the knowledge that walks out your door each time a top performer chooses to leave your company when these issues are ignored, or worse, the problems are acknowledged by leadership but not addressed! The reality is that most employees quit their jobs due to bad bosses or managers. How will losing one or two top performers in your company impact your team, customers, and revenue?
Mitigating Legal Risks: this can be a big one!
Failure to address performance and behavioral issues can expose your business to potential legal liabilities. If an underperforming employee is terminated without proper documentation on performance or non-performance-related matters, including counseling efforts and a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), they might pursue legal action.
Do you want to spend your time, money, and energy dealing with a wrongful termination lawsuit? What issues could be uncovered in your company if such a lawsuit existed? Do you really want to open your company up to a lawsuit? To protect your company from such legal risks, it is crucial to maintain detailed records of performance evaluations, counseling sessions, and any improvement plans. As an employment attorney friend of mine warns: spend 30 minutes with me now or 30 hours with me later! At $700 per hour, that adds up quickly.
One of the most critical steps, especially if you have a PIP in place, is to follow up with the appropriate actions. If your employee refuses to participate in the assigned PIP or fails to meet the expectations you laid out, you most likely have a legitimate reason to terminate employment. Keeping a failing employee should not be an emotional decision or a “kind” thing to do; you have to remember the overall impact this employee’s performance or behavior has in all areas of your company.
Control the Outcome
As a business owner, creating a culture of accountability and addressing issues as they arise creates a positive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated to contribute to the company’s success. Addressing problems early on is a proactive step to safeguard your business’s reputation, productivity, and overall success. Contact me if you feel stuck and need clarification on your next steps. Often, having a third-party expert walk you through your situation and provide guidance will give you the roadmap to begin addressing bad behavior in the future. It is also vital to ensure you comply with labor laws when handling personnel issues. Our team is here to help you take control, retain your best workers, and fulfill your organization’s goals.