Employees can be difficult for any number of reasons. Perhaps they are frequently late, absent without notice evidence or a reasonable explanation, poorly performing or the subject of a workplace complaint.
While each situation must be dealt with on a case by case basis it is important to keep good records, act quickly, manage the situation in accordance with well drafted employment agreements, policies and procedures and ensure you manage reasonably.
While management strategies vary widely depending on the circumstances and the nature of the difficulty presented by the employee, it is useful to consider the following methods.
- Set clear expectations
Effective management fundamentally relies on setting clear and simple expectations for employees.
The best way to achieve this is with well drafted employment contracts, policies and procedures. These can assist with training, compliance and disciplinary processes and should not be overlooked.
- Enforce polices and procedures
What is the use of well drafted policies if they are never read?
Consistently managing back to your documents (including policies) is an effective way to reduce the risk of a claim.
- Keep good records
An employer must keep a number of employee records and either make them available for inspection and copying or provide them within a certain number of days. In addition to these records, it is advisable to keep file notes of conversations and minutes of a meeting.
- Explain the issue
If an employee is underperforming or consistently late to work, you should meet with them to discuss the issue and reinforce your expectations. Give an employee an opportunity to respond to your concern and listen to what they have to say.
- Plan for improvement
For issues involving underperformance, identify what the employee needs to improve. A performance improvement plan, sets out the issues of concern, the standard expected, what would need to occur to reach the expected standard, the review periods and consequences of failing to satisfactorily improve by the required timeframe.
If the issue relates to absenteeism, identify the reason and explain how regular absence affects performance.
- What about misconduct?
Any allegation of misconduct should be appropriately investigated to ensure there is sufficient evidence to support an allegation.
It is important to put all allegations to the employee to allow them a genuine opportunity to respond. Based on the employee’s response, further investigations may be required.
- Take appropriate disciplinary action
Discipline must be reasonable considering the circumstances and may involve counselling, a warning or dismissal.
In cases of misconduct, the evidence should suggest it is more likely than not that the employee committed misconduct before you take appropriate disciplinary action.
In circumstances involving underperformance, if there is no improvement, a warning should be the first disciplinary step. In giving a warning, clearly advise the employee that their job may be at risk if they do not improve. For any further underperformance, you should explain your concern, allow for a response and meet with the employee before considering whether dismissal is necessary.
Please let us know if you require any assistance in managing a difficult employee. Each situation is different and practical and accurate legal advice can greatly assist.