How to Have “The Talk” with a Lax Employee

You’ve recently hired an employee who nailed the interview. They answered every question with optimism and creativity and their CV was off the charts. Thinking of yourself as a good judge of character, you didn’t bother to call and check their references; you could tell they were going to fit in well.

A couple of months go by, and the person you thought you hired still hasn’t shown up to work. Yes, they’re physically present and responding to company-wide emails with a ready wit, but that’s about all they do. They never meet their deadlines, they linger too long in the doorway and they disrupt company time with loud, yammering stories of what crazy thing they did last weekend.

You can see the rest of your staff bristle when the new hire walks into the room, and you feel so ashamed for having fallen for the new employee’s ploy in the interview. But still, you’re not ready to give up on them. What they need to understand is that their behavior has to change if they want to continue with your company, and there’s a way to do just that.

Communicate The Right Message

As a leader, it’s your job to support your team and to address team member issues. Having tough talks with lax employees comes with the territory. An efficient leader has to be able to professionally (and firmly) correct their behavior.

When you’re just starting out as a small business, you’re not going to have the luxury of an HR department to take care of this, so it’s you who needs to manage it. Discussing behavioral issues with your employees won’t be easy, but by ignoring the problem the employee will see their behavior as acceptable and the morale of the rest of your staff will plummet.

To make this easier, institute individual monthly meetings with every employee. Using an agenda for the meeting, discuss current projects, projected goals and where you would like to see the employee’s progress in a month’s time.

The Language of ‘We’

It’s important that in these meetings you listen, communicate and document the interaction. By maintaining copies of each meeting you’ll be able to reference what was discussed before, while also being able to identify where the employee has or has not improved. If the employee is performing well in certain areas, compliment them for that. In areas that need improvement, you will want to de-personalize the tête-à-tête by using “We” language.

This means that instead of saying, “you need to do a, b and c before you even think about x, y and z,” you say, “I would like you to work on these projects and have them finished at this deadline, then we can proceed.” If you go into the meeting exclaiming, “you don’t finish projects on time and you mess up our projected timelines,” it sounds like an attack. By saying “I want to see this,” or “let’s work on that,” it will appear to the problem employee that you want to help them succeed in the company. They will be more receptive to positive criticism and will change their work habits.

Sadly, not all employees will work to right their course, and you will need to make the decision to terminate their contract. For the small business owner who did not document meeting exchanges or keep a detailed file of what the employee did and did not accomplish, they can decide to take you to court for breach of contract. This is where insurance for business comes in to save the day. Your business insurance will cover litigation fees and any loss of business brought on by the lawsuit.

You want your business to do well, but in order for that to happen you need employees you can trust, who are responsible and determined to contribute to achieving company success. Don’t be afraid to lead, remember, it’s your job.

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