At some point it happens to every business owner. You hire a new employee and expect that this person is going to do an excellent job. (You put in a lot of time and effort to make this hire, too!) But after just a short time, you begin to notice signs that your “promising employee” is not quite meeting your expectations.
Did you make the wrong hire? Should you cut your losses and terminate this employee immediately, or is there something that you can do to turn this situation around?
Can you turn lemons into lemonade?
Dealing with this human resources nightmare can be stressful and costly for companies of all sizes. It helps to be prepared when you do need to deal with a bad employee. If his/her actions are not addressed early, the negative consequences of their performance could reverberate internally among your staff, or it could manifest an external crisis with your clients.
Here are suggestions for how you might find you have a “lemon” in your midst and what you can do about it:
Sometimes you hire a person because you believe they would perform the job’s roles and responsibilities well, because they had performed similar tasks elsewhere. Sometimes you hire a person knowing you will need to provide training, from ground up, because the job and Company calls for it. Whether the person’s prior experience just didn’t pan out, or the person proved less trainable than you imagined, there is still the same problem: a wide performance gap.
To close a performance gap, you must provide reinforcement training in the areas in which you need to see improvement. Employees under reinforcement training should be made aware of the expectations and potential outcomes of the training period. You can evaluate for positive change in their performance, report progress in key skill areas, and reward or recognize a person for their efforts.
The situation can be tense when an employee isn’t working out. It is uncomfortable to be part of, in proximity to, and spectator to. A manager might feel frustrated by the employee’s performance issues, while the employee might be frustrated about added pressure and exposure by the manager. (Of course, the owner might be experiencing the greatest tension of all as they begin to see the business affected!)
In all cases, it is critical to maintain open lines of communication between staff, supervisors, managers, executives, Board, clients and customers. Even a single underperforming, misrepresenting employee could reflect poorly on the Company’s communications strategy; imagine if you multiply that among your workforce. The best thing you can do is keep operations and decision-making transparent, providing information as requested and needed. Keep your employees informed and involved to keep attitudes positive.
After all of the reinforcement training and countless communication sessions, what if an employee is still not up to snuff? If you’ve seen that corrective measures did not help the employee grow, and how open communication only caused friction in the department, what can you do?
You must terminate the employment. Look out for the best interests of your Company and its people, and recognize when a single person’s departure is beneficial to the productivity and morale of the team. A fired person may be a sour lemon, but consider this: you may even be serving their best interests by not wasting their time and allowing them to move on from a bad situation.
At any Company the goal is to create a positive work environment for all staff. Individuals perform their best work when they are happy doing the job assigned among the team of coworkers around them. Dealing with a lemon at your Company in a meaningful way is not something to take easily. Knowing the signs and a course of action will help make the best lemonade possible.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.