How to manage office conflictsManaging an office is a little like managing a baseball team. You may have some real all-stars on your team, but you may also have some people who are striking out when they are at bat, or making errors in the field. And while you may be able to guide a struggling staffer to get some hits, you may also have some employees who are arguing with you in the dugout and refusing to listen to coaching. So what can you do about problem employees? Here are some tips:

Get your head out of the sand

Ignoring a problem employee, or being subtle in your disdain for their behavior, is unlikely to magically fix them.  You need to pay attention to what your staff is doing, and how one bad employee can create problems or conflicts for the entire staff. So the first step is watching your staff, seeing how they do their jobs and how they interact.

And it’s not a matter of simply going after those who speak up. There are those who do so because they want to make things better for all at work, and there are those who complain because they have bad attitudes. It is your job to know the difference and proceed accordingly.

Come up with a performance action plan

If your bad-acting staffer is doing something major like stealing from the company, they obviously need to be terminated immediately. But many problem employees aren’t committing illegal actions like that. They generally fall into two categories – those whose performance isn’t up to snuff, and those whose attitudes aren’t up to snuff. In some cases, they may fall into both categories.

So you should come up with some sort of performance action plan, which will give your employee a roadmap of how to improve, and explain that there will be consequences for lack of improvement. You may find that in some cases, your staffer simply needs more training, and after getting that, he or she will not be an issue.

Dealing with attitude is a trickier one. What do you do with a staffer who gets the work done, but has a terrible attitude, and doesn’t get along with co-workers? Your standard should be as to whether the pluses outweigh the negatives with the employee, and how much their attitude detracts from their performance. If it is a big deal, then you need to talk with them about getting an attitude adjustment, and warn them about future consequences.  You can also talk with a business coach on ways to get the best out of your employees.

Document everything

It is important to track what the employee does, so that if you have to terminate them, you can provide evidence to justify your decision. All too often, companies know that they have problem employees, but they simply fire them when they have had enough instead of documenting their ongoing issues.  This means that the employee could potentially sue after getting fired and make a discrimination claim for whatever reason, and the employer does not have the paper trail to show their poor performance.

Decide if they should stay or go

After a set period of time listed in your performance plan, you may want to consult with your company’s human resources department if your employee does not shape up.  You may decide it is time to let the person go. You might have to talk HR or with an employment attorney, to make sure you do things the right way, and head off the possibility of legal action. Make sure you do everything by the book.