Have you ever had something smelly calling out for your attention? I recently came home from a speaking engagement, opened my refrigerator and was hit with a whiff of old broccoli. I put it on my counter, meaning to take it out, but ended up getting sidetracked. As I circled back by the sink, I encountered the offensive odor again. Once I took it out, the stench disappeared.
Unaddressed problems have the same effect in the workplace. Left unresolved, the toxicity can overtake an entire team or organization. In some cases, second or third chances only encourage repeat offenses, and it’s important to know when to consider a problematic employee to be a lost cause.
As you plan out the New Year, I encourage you to tackle any problems you may have been avoiding. Here are five behaviors great leaders never let slide:
1. Employees coming in late or leaving early. If you fail to address an employee who is chronically late or skips out early, you have two problems: an under-functioning employee and the growing resentment among your other employees. Instead of tolerating bad behavior, hold individuals accountable for arriving on time.
2. Employees who “blow up” when they are frustrated or angry. Regardless of the frustration or situation, it is never professional or acceptable for someone to yell, call names, curse, belittle, attack or harass others. As a leader, it is your responsibility to hold individuals accountable for how they act when they are upset.
3. Employees who slack off and expect others to carry their weight. When you have an under-functioning employee, someone else is forced to pick up their slack. If your most conscientious employees feel obliged to pick up the slack for less dedicated employees, they will become resentful and are at high risk for burnout. Who would you rather alienate or lose — your best employees or your resident slacker?
4. Employees who are incompetent. Do you have employees who repeatedly make the same mistakes, are in over their heads or don’t know how to perform a critical job function? It’s important to ask yourself if they are a good fit for your organization and if they are in the right position. If they are a great person you don’t want to let go, get them into a position that utilizes their strengths and passion.
5. Employees chronically dealing with drama and who fail to show up. When someone’s life is chaotic, it invariably shows up in the form of absenteeism and distractions. I was recently in a small store when an employee called to inform the manager she wouldn’t be coming in to work. Stressed out, the manager told me it happened repeatedly.
I encouraged her to have a conversation with the employee and to determine together if the job was a good fit, given what was going on in her life and her high rate of absenteeism. When I went in the next day, the manager had already initiated the conversation. Deciding that she needed time to work things out, they left the door open for future employment. Even better, the employee thanked her now-former manager for being so understanding.
The next time you’re tempted to let bad behavior slide, think twice. The path of least resistance never leads to long-term success. Your business is counting on you to lead.