That “Problem” employee

In the past I have written articles on how to engage, motivate and mentor your staff and you may say that’s great, but what about those who are not open to change or improvement, even with authentic help and intention.

If you are in a large corporation you have probably got a lot of resource behind you so you may/should know this. On the other hand, if you are a new manager or in a small company this may be of interest.

Problem staff – Yes, there are those who just don’t work out, who seem to suck the life out of the you (the Manager) and/or their team mates. So you if have done all the things I mentioned in my earlier articles; you dug deeper, gave them feedback, encouraged them, explained the consequences and yet whatever their (real) reason, they are not sharing them with you or don’t want to change and remain having a negative affect on you, the team, the outcomes or all of the above.

1.     Firstly – accept that this person probably won’t change – they might surprise you though. Research by Christine Porath shows that up to 4% of people engaging in this sort of behaviour do so because they “like getting away with it” yes, to them it’s a game.

2.     Now things get serious. Serious as in everything must be documented, if it gets awkward you will need to prove you have followed protocols and always considered their situation. So, when they do something wrong, diarize it and advise HR (or whoever ‘looks after” HR in your organisation), do the same for each of the discussions after you brought the incidents up with them.

3.     Don’t ignore the problem. Do not make excuses for them or hide what they are doing. Always bring the incident to their attention and work through it as per the company’s documented processes. But also, don’t keep harping on forever, it can be seen as bullying, stick to the process, call it out then make a final decision when needed.

4.     If possible, don’t let the toxicity of this person influence the others. Try to keep them away from others as much as possible during work. You won’t/can’t stop them outside work hours so do not try. But during work, it lets the rest of your team get on with it.

5.     Don’t let them distract you into spending all your time managing them. Remember, these people really are high maintenance, they will suck up your time very quickly if you let them. Keep control of your ego and dont make it personal, learn the official process and use it.

6.     Be consistent – make sure you treat them the same way every time, all the time. This goes for all your staff, do not treat any individual better or worse than the others. If it is proven you have done this, you may find your problems have grown. And, don’t change the rules or requirements, don’t give them a moving target as this will be to your detriment – they might be taking notes about you!

7.     Stay on track – Work through the official company processes to manage these people. It helps you stay focused and minimises the effect of personalities and egos.

8.     Do not trash them to others – Always talk to HR, but not others. This is not information for discussion with the general populace or others who have an opinion – maintain your integrity. There is no issue getting advice, but the first port of call should be HR.

9.     Be strong – it is not easy firing someone. If it is the right thing to do, as a manager it is your role to do it. Do not pass the buck onto HR or another Manager/Supervisor, remember this person worked for you. It also shows that you respect yourself and your role, and when done properly and ethically, your team will respect you.

10.   Learn from the experience. This is a must, you want to repeat this at little as possible, but if you must so be it.


Which “Game” is your company in – a short term or long term one.

Business, Politics and Education are all INFINITE games (Very long term). To play this game the following are required

  • A Just Cause
  • Courageous Leadership
  • Trusting Team
  • A worthy Rival
  • A Flexible Play-book

In the infinite game there are no winners and no losers, just those in the game and those that drop out because they cannot keep playing.

If ONE of these is missing there will be a slide into a FINITE game (short term – Winner/Loser).

Simon Sinek explains the how to stay in the infinite game  – It is fairly obvious in today’s Geopolitical landscape which Politicians are confused over which game they are in – so not succeeding in either.  Plus they are missing a few (all?) of the requirements to even be in the infinite game! I have included a shorter version (2nd click) if time is a constraint .

Which “Game”  is your company in?

  1. (~26min)
  2. (~10min)