Employer Credibility and the Challenge of Problem Employees
The credibility of employers is at risk when business owners and managers fail to address problem employees and their deficiencies
David Cox | November 19, 2019
Building Employer Credibility
Jack would seem to rate high in employer credibility. He owns and operates an express delivery service, employing 29 full-time and nine part-time employees. He has enjoyed the respect of his admin staff, salespeople, mechanics, and drivers.
Jack has worked with most of these individuals for years and has little employee turnover. What’s more, these employees have conscientiously learned how to do their jobs well, and the business has experienced steady growth.
A Threat to Employer Credibility
Then, Jack decided to hire Oscar as a dispatcher. His workplace has never been the same since.
Oscar made an excellent first impression and got along well with Jack. However, shortly after Jack hired him, the other employees almost immediately began to see his negatives. Oscar didn’t believe rules or policies applied to him. His negative attitude was off-putting to the rest of the staff, and no one wanted to work with him. His most striking negative was, however, that he consistently denied responsibility and blamed others for his mistakes.
You can’t ignore the problem
A few months later, customers began to complain about Oscar’s negative attitude over the phone. Those complaints eventually reached Jack’s desk. He confirmed the problem with a few other employees and wasted no time in calling Oscar to his office. They met privately for over an hour.
The other employees seemed relieved that Jack was going to do something about Oscar. Unquestionably, this was a situation where many long-time employees were now struggling with workplace issues. Undoubtedly, the common thread in these issues was Oscar. Many were hoping Jack would go ahead and terminate him because no one believed that Oscar could successfully correct his behavior. In fact, the other employees already figured out how the work would get done without him.
The Employer’s Decision
When the two men emerged, Jack called everyone into the conference room. Surprisingly, he announced the creation of a new position. He also announced his decision to name Oscar as the new Office Manager.
When the other employees realized that Oscar was now their boss, they reacted with stunned silence. As word later spread that his promotion came with a raise in salary, many were upset, but others were openly angry.
The employee’s question
They didn’t understand how Jack could make such a decision. The common question among the employees was, “Doesn’t he understand that Oscar is the problem?”
So, Jack has promoted Oscar to a position where he’s not accountable to anyone except Jack. Evidently, Jack would rather promote a “problem employee” than take corrective action with regards to Oscar’s behavior and work performance. Perhaps Jack has convinced himself that Oscar is a good employee and everyone else is the problem.
In any case, the other employees didn’t understand how a problem employee could be rewarded and even advanced in an organization. As a result, morale suffered, and enthusiasm for the work declined. One thing is sure; Jack didn’t help himself or anyone else by failing to address Oscar’s short-comings.
Maintaining Employer Credibility
Undoubtedly, Jack needed to face Oscar’s deficiencies squarely and communicate with him directly. He needed to develop an improvement plan and monitor Oscar’s progress. From his first meetings with Oscar, following the complaints, Jack needed to keep a written record of their meetings and communications (formal and informal). Once Oscar completed the improvement plan, Jack could evaluate his progress and decide his status with the company. Jack could make this next decision based on whether or not the corrective action solved the problem. If not, he would need to decide whether to require further review or if termination is ultimately necessary.
Sure, there are many things Jack could have done to prevent this situation. However, this article is not about what he could’ve or should’ve done. Jack’s employer credibility now depends on his handling of the problem with Oscar. At this point, he needs to make the additional time and effort necessary to handle what can be a stressful situation. Nevertheless, I’m confident that whether it’s Jack’s employer’s credibility—or yours, it’s worth the investment of time and effort.