How To Handle Difficult Employees

Every employer will have to deal with a difficult employee eventually. Sometimes, a serious conversation is all that’s needed to solve the problem. At other times, you might need to bring in HR. Here are seven types of troublesome employees and what you can do to handle the issues they bring.

The LOAFER: Known for goofing off, the loafer does just enough work to get by, while other employees have to pick up the slack. Unsurprisingly, this can cause resentment. Have a candid conversation, telling the loafer to focus on doing their job, not on wasting time. And reward those who pick up the slack.

The MALCONTENT: The grump in the group, the malcontent can squelch other’s ideas and lower morale with just a few words. Talk with them to discover the cause of their discontent and encourage them to offer potential solutions alongside any complaints they raise.

The MEDDLER: Extremely nosy, the meddler is known to ask personal or rude questions. Worse yet, they’re quick to share what they’ve learned. If your goal is a harmonious workplace, have the difficult conversation. Tell the meddler to focus on their work, not other people’s business.

The NARCISSIST: Desperate to be the center of attention, the narcissist puts their ego above the needs of the company. Assign them to projects where their strengths and skills will shine, while encouraging them to give credit to their hardworking coworkers.

The THIEF: Shady and manipulative, the thief lies and maybe even steals from your company. This makes other employees uneasy and scared. Don’t let your guard down when dealing with the thief. Instead, investigate discreetly. If you have hard evidence they’ve stolen from you, seek legal advice before confronting them.

The VICTIM: Excuses, excuses. With the victim, it’s always someone else’s fault. Counter this behavior by explaining it’s not about assigning blame. You don’t expect perfection, but you do expect people to help solve problems when they arise, not point a finger.

The YELLER: From shrieking laughter to loud chatter, the yeller can distract and annoy others. Sure, they may not realize how disruptive they are, but people need to get work done. Be direct and tactful when you tell them to lower their volume. After all, what you’re asking is reasonable.

Why should you improve your employee onboarding program?

Employee onboarding is a very method used in talent acquisition.
If done right, employee onboarding process can easily become your secret weapon for hiring and retaining talent.

A successful employee onboarding program ensures that your best candidate actually shows up on their first day at the new job.

This is because a successful employee onboarding process starts at the moment your best candidate accepts your offer.
If you don’t engage you best candidates until their start date, they might accept a better offer or a counteroffer from their current employer.

It also helps to improve retention, engagement, satisfaction, and productivity of your new employees.

According to the Society For Human Resources Management (SHRM):

  • 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding.
  • Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity.
  • 54% of companies with onboarding programs reported higher employee engagement.

3 best employee onboarding tips

Here are the best 3 tips that will help get the most out of your onboarding program:

Tip #1: Plan and organize 

If you want to maximize the power of your onboarding process, you need to carefully structure it. To learn how, check out our step-by-step Guide on how to successfully onboard new employees.

Keep in mind that:

  1. A successful onboarding is a process
    A successful employee onboarding is not an event that takes place on your new employee’s first day at the office. It is a continuous process that starts at the moment your best candidate accepts your job offer.
  2. A successful onboarding is people oriented
    A successful employee onboarding is not focused on tasks, but on people.
    The human touch drives onboarding success.  The secret of great onboarding is the fact that it makes your new employees feel welcomed and integrated into your company culture from the day one!

Tip #2: Automate 

Automating your employee onboarding process will help you save time and your nerves. There are many different employee onboarding tools you can use to easily automate your onboarding process.

There are 3 main types of employee onboarding tools:

  1. Checklists: Checklists are the most simple and straightforward tool that can help you onboard new employees.
  2. Specialized tools: Specialized employee onboarding tools are tools created for the sole purpose of improving the employee onboarding process.
  3. Integrated tools: Integrated tools are comprehensive, all-in-one tools that offer solutions for your whole HR management process, including payroll, benefits, time and attendance, etc.

Tip#3: Be creative 

To make your new employees’ onboarding experience truly unique, you need to get creative! Luckily for you, we compiled the best and the most innovative employee onboarding ideas and examples from experts to inspire you!

Here are 3 simple, but creative employee onboarding ideas you can easily implement:

  1. Welcome GIF or video: Gather your team and create a welcome video for your new employee!
    If your employees shy away from a camera or you don’t have enough time on your hands, go with the quicker version – create a welcome GIF!
  2. Decorate your new employee’s desk: Decorate your new employee’s desk with some balloons, welcome sign and maybe even some cake! You can also pack your company swag (such as branded notebook, pens, T-shirt, water bottle, etc.) as a present!
  3. 100th-day party: Throwing a 100 day on the job party for your employees is a great opportunity to shower them with some attention and remind them how much you are happy to have them joined your company.
People Management Mistakes That Small Businesses Tend to Make

While there are fewer employees to contend with in a small business, people management is just as important as in larger businesses. Since small businesses may have smaller HR departments or may not have any HR department at all, the responsibility of managing the people often falls on a manager or entrepreneur whose expertise is in a different area. As a result, a few management mistakes commonly occur.

Hiring Too Fast

When a position opens up in a small business, it leaves a large void. It is often necessary to fill the position quickly in order to keep the business running smoothly. Unfortunately, many hiring managers in small companies cave in from the pressure and hire someone that may be less qualified just to fill the position.

Not Allocating Enough Resources toward Training

Training takes time and money; there is no avoiding it. Many small businesses make the grave error of failing to properly train employees. A failure to properly train can cause a company to lose customers, make an employee feel unprepared and bitter towards the company, and cost the company money.

Failing to Document Performance Issues

Performance and behavioral issues are a problem for any company. Failure to document performance issues can give employees silent approval for unacceptable behaviors, which can lead to further behavioral issues and foster discontent among faithful employees that achieve the standards. If an employee is fired for performance or behavioral issues and no documentation is made concerning the issues, the employee may also be able to collect unemployment or sue for wrongful termination.

Not Firing In a Way That Benefits the Company

Many small business owners and managers fire employees according to personal relationships, tenure, and other reasons that have nothing to do with company performance and the bottom line. If it is necessary to fire someone because the business cannot afford to keep all of the employees in position, it is important to review performance factors and make a logical decision. If an employee needs to be fired because of performance or behavior, it is important to put personal feelings aside and focus on meeting the needs of the business first.

Failing to Comply with Employment Laws

Certain employment laws apply to businesses with just one employee, while other laws apply to businesses with 12 or more. Others apply to businesses with more than 50 employees. It is critical for employers to study these requirements and take the necessary steps to comply with all applicable laws.

Small business owners must be aware of human resource laws regarding:

  • Discrimination
  • Family leave
  • Military leave
  • Minimum wage requirements
  • Overtime
  • Safety standards
  • Disability

Misclassifying Employees

Some small businesses classify employees as contractors to save on taxes, but this can be a critical error if employees do not fit the legal description of contractors. Different laws may also apply if an employee is classified as part-time instead of full-time. Small business owners must be careful to classify employees properly so that they do not incur penalties.

Top 10 Don’ts When You Fire an Employee

Firing an employee is stressful for all parties—not just for the employee losing a job. No matter how well you’ve communicated about performance problems with the employee, almost no one believes that they will actually get fired. With cause, too. The average employer waits too long to fire a non-performing employee much of the time.

So, employees convince themselves that they won’t get fired: they think that you like them; they think that you know that they are a nice person, or you recognize that they’ve been trying hard. In fact, you may believe and think all of these things. But, none of your feelings matter when the employee is not performing his job.

Firing an employee may take you awhile—usually much longer than the circumstances merit. Because you are kind, caring, and tend to give employees another chance. But, these are the top 10 things you do not want to do when you do decide to fire an employee.

Don’t Fire an Employee Unless You Are Meeting Face-to-Face

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Do not fire an employee using any electronic method—no emails, IMs, voicemails, or phone calls. Even a letter is inappropriate when you fire an employee.

When you fire an employee give them the courtesy that you would extend to any human being. They deserve a face-to-face meeting when you fire an employee. Nothing else works.

The fired employee will remember and your other employees who remain have even longer memories. And, no, during this time of social media dominance, don’t believe for a minute that the circumstances of the firing will remain secret.

You will have created a scenario in which your remaining employees are afraid to trust you. Or worse, they trust that you may harm them, too.

Don’t Fire an Employee Without Warning

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Nothing makes an employee angrier than feeling blindsided when fired. Unless an immediate, egregious act occurs, the employee should experience coaching and performance feedback over time. Before you fire an employee, try to determine what is causing the employee to fail.

If you decide the employee is able to improve her performance, provide whatever assistance is needed to encourage and support the employee. Document each step in the improvement process so that the employee has a record of what is happening at each step. The employer is also protecting its own interests in the event of a lawsuit over the termination.

If you are confident that the employee can improve, and the employee’s role allows, a performance improvement plan (PIP) may show the employee specific, measurable improvement requirements. (A PIP is difficult, if not impossible, with a manager or HR staff, once you have lost confidence in their performance.)

Do not, however, use a PIP unless you are confident that the employee can improve. The agonizing process of meeting weekly to chart no progress is horrible for the employee, the manager, and the HR rep, too.

The actual termination—while almost always somewhat of a surprise—should not come with no warning.

Don’t Fire an Employee Without a Witness

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Especially in the US, anyone can sue anybody, at any time, for any reason. In employment termination cases, the employee has to find a lawyer who believes he can win the case and thus, collect his fee. The best practice is to include a second employee in the meeting when you fire an employee.

This gives you an individual who hears and participates in the employment termination in addition to the manager. This person can also help pick up the slack if the hiring manager runs out of words or is unsure of what to say or do next.

This witness is often the Human Resources staff person. The HR person has more experience than the average manager, in firing employees, so can also help keep the discussion on track and moving to completion.

The HR person can also ensure that employees are treated fairly, equally, and with professionalism across departments and individual managers. This limits your liability when you fire an employee.

Don’t Supply Lengthy Rationale and Examples for Why You Are Firing the Employee

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If you have coached and documented an employee’s performance over time and provided frequent feedback, there is no point in rehashing your dissatisfaction when you fire the employee. It accomplishes nothing and is cruel.

Yet, every employee will ask you why. So, have an answer prepared that is honest and correctly summarizes the situation without detail or placing blame.

You want the employee to maintain her dignity during an employment termination. So, you might say, “We’ve already discussed your performance issues. We are terminating your employment because your performance does not meet the standards we expect from this position.

“We wish you well in your future endeavors and trust that you will locate a position that is a better fit for you. You have many talents and we are confident that you will locate a position that can take advantage of them.”

Or you can simply remind the employee that you have discussed issues with him or her over time, and leave it at that.

The more detailed you become, the less able you will be to use any of the information you discover following the employment termination in a subsequent lawsuit. And, as an employer, you will always find out additional information.

For example, think about a terminated HR staff person who had months of new employee paperwork in her drawer. The employees had not been enrolled in healthcare insurance.

In another example, a marketing employee had the entire bookkeeping for her bar which she operated in the evenings on her company-owned computer. (The employer was kind and gave her a copy of her bookkeeping which they didn’t need to do.)

30 employee handbook do’s and don’ts from the NLRB

To help employers craft handbooks that don’t violate the National Labor Relations Act, the National Labor Relations Board has issued a compilation of rules it has found to be illegal — and rewritten them to illustrate how they can comply with the law.

It was issued as a memorandum by NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr. to “help employers to review their handbooks and other rules, and conform them, if necessary, to ensure they are lawful.”

Specifically, the memorandum points out employer policies found to violate and conform to Section 7 of the NLRA.

The main area of concern

Section 7 mandates that employees be allowed to participate in “concerted activity” to help improve the terms and conditions of their work.

The NLRB has made it abundantly clear recently that it’s on the lookout for rules that:

  • explicitly restrict protected concerted activity, and/or
  • could be construed to restrict protected Section 7 activity.

One thing the memorandum makes very clear: extremely subtle variations in language could be the difference between having a legal policy in the NLRB’s eyes and having one that’s viewed as violating the NLRA.

What to say, what not to say

Here are many of the dos and don’ts highlighted by the memorandum, separated by topic:

Rules regarding confidentiality

  • Illegal: “Do not discuss ‘customer or employee information’ outside of work, including ‘phone numbers [and] addresses.’” The NLRB said, in addition to the overbroad reference to “employee information,” the blanket ban on discussing employee contact info, without regard for how employees obtain that info, is facially illegal.
  • Illegal: “Never publish or disclose [the Employer’s] or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Never publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to [the Employer].” The NLRB said a broad reference to “another’s” information, without clarification, would reasonably be interpreted to include other employees’ wages and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Illegal: Prohibiting employees from “disclosing … details about the [Employer].” The NLRB said this is a broad restriction that failed to clarify that it doesn’t restrict Section 7 activity.
  • Legal: “No unauthorized disclosure of ‘business “secrets” or other confidential information.’”
  • Legal: “Misuse or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information not otherwise available to persons or firms outside [Employer] is cause for disciplinary action, including termination.”
  • Legal: “Do not disclose confidential financial data, or other non-public proprietary company information. Do not share confidential information regarding business partners, vendors or customers.”

The NLRB said the last three rules above were legal because: “1) they do not reference information regarding employees or employee terms and conditions of employment, 2) although they use the general term “confidential,” they do not define it in an overbroad manner, and 3) they do not otherwise contain language that would reasonably be construed to prohibit Section 7 communications.”

Rules regarding conduct toward the company and supervisors

  • Illegal: “Be respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners, and competitors.”
  • Illegal: “Do ‘not make fun of, denigrate, or defame your co-workers, customers, franchisees, suppliers, the Company, or our competitors.’”
  • Illegal: “Be respectful of others and the Company.”
  • Illegal: “No defamatory, libelous, slanderous or discriminatory comments about [the Company], its customers and/or competitors, its employees or management.’”

The NLRB said the rules above were unlawfully overbroad because: “employees reasonably would construe them to ban protected criticism or protests regarding their supervisors, management, or the employer in general.”

  • Illegal: “Disrespectful conduct or insubordination, including, but not limited to, refusing to follow orders from a supervisor or a designated representative.”
  • Illegal: “‘Chronic resistance to proper work-related orders or discipline, even though not overt insubordination’ will result in discipline.”

The NLRB said the rules above, while banning “insubordination,” also ban “conduct that does not rise to the level of insubordination, which reasonably would be understood as including protected concerted activity.”

  • Illegal: “Refrain from any action that would harm persons or property or cause damage to the Company’s business or reputation.”
  • Illegal: “It is important that employees practice caution and discretion when posting content [on social media] that could affect [the Employer’s] business operation or reputation.”
  • Illegal: “Do not make ‘statements “that damage the company or the company’s reputation or that disrupt or damage the company’s business relationships.”‘”
  • Illegal: “Never engage in behavior that would undermine the reputation of [the Employer], your peers or yourself.”

The NLRB said the rules above “were unlawfully overbroad because they reasonably would be read to require employees to refrain from criticizing the employer in public.

  • Legal: “No ‘rudeness or unprofessional behavior toward a customer, or anyone in contact with’ the company.”
  • Legal: “Employees will not be discourteous or disrespectful to a customer or any member of the public while in the course and scope of [company] business.”

The NLRB said the rules above are legal because they wouldn’t lead an employee to believe they restrict criticism of the company.

  • Legal: “Each employee is expected to work in a cooperative manner with management/supervision, coworkers, customers and vendors.” The NLRB says employees would reasonably understand that this states the employer’s legitimate expectation that employees work together in an atmosphere of civility.
  • Legal: “Each employee is expected to abide by Company policies and to cooperate fully in any investigation that the Company may undertake.” The NLRB said this rule is legal because “employees would reasonably interpret it to apply to employer investigations of workplace misconduct rather than investigations of unfair labor practices or preparations for arbitration.”
  • Legal: “‘Being insubordinate, threatening, intimidating, disrespectful or assaulting a manager/supervisor, coworker, customer or vendor will result in’ discipline.” The NLRB said: “Although a ban on being  disrespectful’ to management, by itself, would ordinarily be found to unlawfully chill Section 7 criticism of the employer, the term here is contained in a larger provision that is clearly focused on serious misconduct, like insubordination, threats, and assault. Viewed in that context, we concluded that employees would not reasonably believe this rule to ban protected criticism.”

Rules regarding conduct between employees

  • Illegal: “‘Don’t pick fights’ online.”
  • Illegal: “Do not make ‘insulting, embarrassing, hurtful or abusive comments about other company employees online,’ and ‘avoid the use of offensive, derogatory, or prejudicial comments.’”
  • Illegal: “Show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics and religion.”
  • Illegal: “Do not send ‘unwanted, offensive, or inappropriate’ e-mails.”

The NLRB said the rules above were unlawfully overbroad because employees would reasonably construe them to restrict protected discussions with their co-workers.

  • Legal: “[No] ‘Making inappropriate gestures, including visual staring.’”
  • Legal: “Any logos or graphics worn by employees ‘must not reflect any form of violent, discriminatory, abusive, offensive, demeaning, or otherwise unprofessional message.’”
  • Legal: “[No] ‘Threatening, intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the job performance of fellow employees or visitors.’”
  • Legal: “No ‘harassment of employees, patients or facility visitors.’”
  • Legal: “No ‘use of racial slurs, derogatory comments, or insults.’”

The NLRB said the rules above were legal because: “when an employer’s professionalism rule simply requires employees to be respectful to customers or competitors, or directs employees not to engage in unprofessional conduct, and does not mention the company or its management, employees would not reasonably believe that such a rule prohibits Section 7-protected criticism of the company.

How Offering Professional Development Opportunities to Employees Helps Your Small Business

Continuing education platforms are a great way to develop employee skills, boost morale and improve recruitment efforts.

Employers are often on the hunt for job benefits that they can add at a low cost to improve recruitment efforts and boost employee morale. When these benefits also positively impact productivity, they’re a win-win for worker and employer.

No benefit does a better job at checking all these boxes than professional development opportunities for your employees. These include things like online learning platforms, paid junkets to seminars and workshops, and even employer-sponsored schooling. Educational opportunities allow employees to grow their skills and pursue their professional goals, while also integrating what they’ve learned into their day-to-day responsibilities in the workplace.

What are some popular professional development benefits?

Professional development opportunities come in many shapes and sizes. They include online learning, workplace-hosted events, offsite seminars and workshops, and membership in professional organizations. Professional development can also include employer support for schooling costs in some cases.

Today’s employees are unmistakably anxious to learn and get new skills, and the appropriation of innovation to empower employees’ learning enables associations to lift worker bliss while enhancing their capacity to hold ability.

Many employers also offer access to online learning platforms, such as Lynda or Degreed. These platforms allow employees to guide their own learning with preset pathways, as well as for managers to create their own pathways that could help employees grow in their organizational roles. They also include reward or gamification opportunities to further incentivize learning.

According to the 2017 Employee Benefits Report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the most common types of educational and professional development opportunities employers offer include professional organization memberships, offsite events, and workplace training or courses.

Another common professional development benefit is tuition reimbursement. A survey of 2,000 employees conducted by Better Buys found that 53 percent of respondents had access to tuition reimbursement programs sponsored by their employer. Employers can obtain a tax write-off for up to $5,250 of educational assistance benefits every year.

Regardless of how you plan to make continued education a part of your business growth, you need to do it. Investing in your employees is one of the best ways to show you care about them personally.

How does professional development benefit employers?

There are three major ways professional development opportunities come back to employers. Professional development benefits help employers recruit new talent, retain their existing employees, and cultivate skills that will be used for the benefit of the company.

Whether an employee stays for decades or not, offering continuing education is still worth it.  It is a nice perk for recruiting that shows the company cares about the employee’s growth, and even if the employee is only there for a couple of years, it’s better to have more highly skilled employees for the same price.

According to SHRM’s report, 48 percent of HR professionals cited training and education programs as the most effective recruiting tool at their disposal.

The Better Buys survey found that 78 percent of respondents currently have access to professional development, while 92 percent of respondents believe access is important or very important. According to the survey results, employees with access to professional development opportunities are 15 percent more engaged in their jobs, which led to a 34 percent higher retention rate. This means those employees are not only more productive day to day, but less likely to leave their positions, which saves employers an average turnover cost of 6-9 months of an employee’s salary.

Hiring is expensive and time-consuming.  It is often easier and cheaper to retain your own talent, or hire from within. Training or up-skilling employees opens an additional talent pool for the employer that they already had.

Professional development is a clear benefit to employees who want to improve their skills and value in the marketplace. It can help them earn a promotion internally or continue pursuing their career goals elsewhere, as their marketability to employers increases. However, it is also a boon for employers, who reap the benefits of a more skilled, satisfied workforce and an attractive tool for drawing in new, intrinsically motivated employees. Employer-sponsored professional development opportunities are the definition of a win-win.

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