When a team member does not perform up to par, your first impulse may be to let that person really have it. However, in some cases, difficulties at work can be an indication of some other struggle. This is especially true if a trusted employee suddenly starts to under perform.
Most team members do not want to be fired, lose their job, and find another one. In fact, just about every team member starts out with a new job with every intention of doing a great job, finding a new second “home, and fitting in with their new teammates. They are not looking to cause problems, disrupt the practice, or any of the above.
However, what is happening when that team member’s attitude begins to shift from cooperative and conscientious to frustrated and non-compliant?
The Troubled Team Member
If your practice is well-organized, with good job descriptions, thorough training, regular team meetings, regular performance/growth conferences, and such, how a team member is performing is most likely not related to the practice. My experience is that there is usually something going on in their lives outside the practice that is causing them great concern and/or frustration. After all, they ARE human, and they DO have lives besides being your employee!
So, this is an area that you should address with that team member, in private, and with great caution and concern. You could lose that team member when it had nothing at all to do with your practice, and that would be a loss you don’t need! Start by asking the person if they have a few minutes to chat with you in private, that you’ve noticed a few things that concern you. Most likely, they will agree, and remember, that does NOT mean you have a license to delve into their personal affairs! Simply tell the person that you’ve noticed how they seem to be distracted – even under-performing – and because you’re concerned about their well-being, ask them if there is anything you can do. Leave it open. If they say no, then it’s best to let it be; they now know you’ve noticed. End the meeting by saying you are available if they need to talk about anything, and then offer encouraging words and help them re-focus on their duties.
The Troublesome Team Member
When you have a team member who is troublesome, it is a signal that all is not well in your practice. There could be any of hundreds of issues, issues that may or may not be obvious to you. As I mentioned previously, a well-run practice has certain attributes, a few of which I mentioned. If these aren’t in place, you’ve got work to do to get them in place. A professional coach can help you be providing expertise in assessment, planning, implementation, and follow-up.
Although a team member may start out their employment in your practice with the best of intentions, things can go south in a relatively short period of time if there is gossip, lack of training, well-defined duties and associated accountability, or personality clashes, to name a few. Soon, that team member is not happy at all, and their frustration and disappointment is often played out in various ways, which I call “troublesome”.
Decisive action on your part to address these issues is key to whether a troublesome employee can become a salvaged good employee, or one who ends up leaving after more damage is done. If there is no recovering, it’s best to let them go quickly and re-hire slowly – and only after you have corrected underlying problems in your practice that caused an employee to become troublesome.
After all, if an employee doesn’t work out, it’s generally your fault. That be a difficult pill to swallow, and only those leaders who are willing to look at what is going on truthfully will see that this is most often the truth.
How can you address the issues in your practice when you are experiencing troublesome employees? For one, working with a credentialed, professional coach who has the knowledge and experience is a great place – and extremely effective place to start. If you feel you can handle the situation, discern a troubled versus a troublesome employee and act on it. You’ll be glad you did, and so will the bottom line of your practice’s profitability.