Running a startup as an entrepreneur is like going into war â€” if you prepare enough, you win before the first engagement. That should be your approach to dealing with negative employees.
Before you rush and schedule a meeting with them though, first take a long breath and explore these questions.
1. Is This Employee the Exception?
One of the first things you should figure out before dealing with a negative employee is whether or not they’re part of a pattern. If said employee is just the latest in a long list of problematic employees, you may have a bigger problem to solve. Your office culture may need adjustment.
There may be times when your employee’s behavior occurred due to your office culture or environment. This does not excuse their behavior, but it could be a symptom of a bigger problem you need to address. Punishing the offense in this case is no longer the end of the issue, but just the beginning. Talk to your employees and partners and figure things out.
2. Is it Their First Offense?
Everyone has a bad days. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to have your share of bad days, and keeping your cool may take effort. Your employees are the same. Some days are rougher than others, and this may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In this case, it’s best to be supportive. Give them the appropriate punishment and move on.
However, if this is part of their nature, other approaches may be required. Don’t wait for it to affect a big project. This is when you start understanding the employee’s work pattern, so you can evaluate their general approach with them when the necessary conversation occurs. Work with them to improve their behavior.
3. How Should the Talk be Angled?
Everything you do as an entrepreneur must have a purpose relative to the start-up’s overall goals. When you’re preparing to talk to a problem employee, you must figure out what you want to happen. That means figuring out what the employee wants, and make no mistake, what the employee wants matters. If the employee is generally reasonable, their acting out may be a result of low job satisfaction.
This is something only they can answer. Give them open-ended questions to answer. Ask them how they feel about working at the company and if their expectations have been met. Ask them what would make them happier at the office, what they would do if they were in charge; their answers will help you understand if they even want to be at the company.
4. What Tone Should You Take?
Different problems require different tones, say public relations and crisis communication specialists like Rosemary Plorin. and there’s no correct answer. Your tone should reflect the severity of the problem as well as the number of offenses of record. Choosing the wrong tone can make you seem unreasonable, thus wasting an opportunity to help and turning it into a train wreck.
When talking to a problem employee, no matter what the offense, be non-confrontational but firm. This means keeping your voice even to keep the conversation civil. It also means being direct and to the point. Don’t be vague. Tell them exactly what they did wrong and cite why it is wrong relative to the company’s rules and strategic goals. Not only will this clarity help you rehabilitate the employee if that ends up being the optimal option, it’ll keep your company protected from post-employment lawsuits.
5. Is it Time to Fire Someone?
One of the toughest calls you’ll have to make as an entrepreneur involves terminating an employee’s contract. It should not reflect poorly on you, the startup, or the employee.
The main question for you is whether or not someone can be helped. The hiring process is often both costly and time consuming, two things no entrepreneur wants to hear. Give them a reasonable amount of time to change their ways before firing them. If it’s not the first time and their most recent offense is indicative of an inability to change, it may be time to part ways.
You’re going to run into problem employees as an entrepreneur. If you’re lucky, most of them will be easy to handle; you present your case, clarify where they made the mistake, and give them the appropriate punishment, and everyone can move on. Realistically speaking, you’ll likely fire more people than you anticipate. Every employee deserves thorough consideration, consideration you can give them by asking these questions.