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  • Alex Wood

How to manage that impossible employee


As a manager or a business owner, dealing with a sub-par employee will likely be one of the most frustrating things you do.


This can often be a daunting task and difficult to know where to start so this article will give you some key pointers if you find yourself having to deal with an impossible staff member!


There are a few reasons that an employee might fall into the ‘impossible’ category. However, the reason usually sits under one of two broad categories. Or maybe both if you’re really unlucky!


Poor job performance

This is when the employee is not meeting their job requirements. Usually the poor performance does not constitute gross negligence and therefore managers don’t always feel they have a strong enough basis to take action.


A bad attitude

Soooo many things can fall under this category - poor attendance, difficulties getting on with other staff, general laziness or disruption, undermining comments - the list could go on and on!

Again, the problem employers generally have in this space is that the bad attitude falls short of serious misconduct so they feel unable or unsure of how to take action.



So, if you find yourself dealing with a staff member who falls into one of these categories, here are the steps you should take.


1. Do something!

My top tip is to be brave and do something! A leader who does nothing is the best friend of an impossible employee. The employee is totally enabled and fears no repercussions.

And the longer the behaviour or performance is allowed to continue, the more difficult it becomes to address and manage.


And just a thought here to ponder over - the behaviours that leaders allow (or do not allow) have a massive impact on the overall culture of an organisation. This is noticed by all your staff - not just the impossible ones!


2. Find out if there are mitigating circumstances

A supportive conversation with the employee might reveal the real reason behind their behaviour or performance. They might need some extra training, more flexibility or some other form of support from the company.


3. Set expectations

When you notice behaviour or performance that is not up to scratch, one of the first things you should do is let the employee know what standard you expect from them.

Speak to the employee, be clear about your expectations and get them to confirm they understand.


Back this brave conversation up with some form of documentation. It could be as simple as an email to the staff member confirming what you spoke about.


4. Put a plan in place

If providing additional support or making your expectations clear doesn’t do the trick, it could be time to take more structured action. Depending on circumstances this could be done formally or informally. It usually involves agreeing a set period of time over which the employee is required to improve. It may include training and other forms of support. Be very clear on the expected standard to be met as well as the consequences for not meeting the standard.


None of the above has to be done in a confrontational manner. If addressed well, behaviour and performance will improve along with your relationship with the employee.


If you need some help with tricky conversations, setting expectations or putting a plan in place - start chatting to us using our live chat function!

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