Employees who complain and consistently struggle to complete their work as expected are like a bad apple in a bushel of apples. Eventually, if uncorrected, they will contaminate other employees, causing the problems they create to spread.
Allowing this to go unchecked always leads to decreases in sales and cost increases. Every time expenses increase and sales decrease, you are in for immediate cash flow and profitability problems. Use progressive discipline to deal fairly and decisively with problem employees.
Employees who consistently “test” company boundaries and break the rules are like a bad apple in a bushel of apples. Initially, this often starts as a type of power game, “the boss isn’t going to tell me how to run my life,” or they just don’t care, or most ironically, they don’t know the rules. Eventually, if uncorrected, they will contaminate other employees, and the problems will spread.
Let there be no mistake here – a failure of an employee to follow and comply with basic rules or procedures is a failure of management. Suppose the failure is as simple as being late or failing to turn in paperwork in a neat, legible, and timely fashion. Either management failed to communicate the rule, or management failed to enforce it. In either case, the failure to meet minimum contribution expectations creates downstream problems for each employee and customer affected by the failure to be on time or turn in legible paperwork on time.
The only person who can fix employee performance issues is the immediate supervisor. Fixing it early will make it easier. Delaying action makes it more complicated, if not impossible.
The single greatest destroyer of morale and, hence, companies is the application of inconsistent discipline. On a side note, if you ever end up in court, you will find yourself on shaky ground and loose footing when you try to explain to a judge why you haphazardly applied your rules.
Employees get used to demanding and strict rules or light and sloppy ones. They go with the flow. When things are intermittently applied, management gets accused of “favoritism,” which invariably leads to the attitude of “What does it matter if I do a good job—or not?” All that counts is being politically correct or the manager’s “pet.”
Dealing fairly and decisively with employees who fail to meet minimum performance standards is one of the most challenging aspects of being a business owner. Progressive discipline is the third component of your Contributions Management Process or CMP. Its purpose is to either help those struggling to contribute to business results earn the money you are paying them or to move them out reasonably and decisively from your employ.
The contribution evaluation process starts with employees knowing their specific accountabilities through Job Descriptions or Task and Duties Lists. Once this is understood, the next step is planned feedback through scheduled evaluations of their job contributions continuously.
Evaluating an employee’s contributions is never easy and is made more difficult when a substandard review or progressive discipline is warranted. If done thoughtfully, a serious discussion about contribution improvement can be viewed as positive by the employee if they perceive it as a form of help to improve job contributions and protect their employment.
The best way to help struggling employees is to help them formulate positive behavior change goals. Unfortunately, most supervisors negatively frame their concerns about a poor contributing employee by focusing on what they are doing wrong rather than doing better. In general, it is better to ask for more of something rather than less of something.
Holding on to employees that you know you should let go of is never good. Employees who aren’t a good fit for your culture, you do them, your customers, coworkers, and managers a disservice by keeping them on. While it’s never easy to fire someone, sometimes it’s the best thing for the employee. In the long-term, they are likely to thank you while their coworkers will celebrate your finally taking action.