People Problems

By Caroline Chapman | March 12, 2021

People Problems

By Caroline Chapman | March 12, 2021

Posted by Caroline Chapman

on 12th March 2021

Do you ever think:

“my staff member just doesn’t do things how I would do them,” or

“one team member causes so many issues its not worth having them here,” or

“I have to redo all their work, it is just not cost effective to have them working”?


The first step is you need to speak to them about it, so they know that they are falling short of your expectations.  But before you do you need to collect a bit of information to make your conversation constructive.  Now, I am not talking a full Miss Marple style investigation but noting down a few dates or instances where things haven’t gone how you would have liked them to.  That way when you speak to them you can be specific and constructive, explain exactly what your expectations are and how on these occasions they haven’t met them.  This could be around customer service, timekeeping, a written report or a physical product such as a meal.

As part of the conversation ask them for their opinion on the instances and ask them if there is anything that you or the business can do to help them improve, this could be re training or some other support.  Listen to what they say, only you can decide if you are able to put their suggestions in place.

End the conversation with a plan and be really clear, “your customer service was not acceptable and I need you to improve in areas x and y. To help you do this I will do a and b.”  Then, this is an important bit, make a note of the conversation – it doesn’t need to be war and peace, just the date and overview of what was discussed and keep it somewhere confidential.

Hopefully that will be enough but unfortunately sometimes it isn’t.  If it isn’t you need to ask yourself is this a new issue?  Have they previously done a great job and now their work has slipped?  The answer to these questions depends on how you will approach the next steps.  If their work hasn’t ever been as good as you would want then it could be a training issue or it could be a capability issue.

If their standards have slipped it could be an attitude or conduct issue, or it could be that they are struggling with something outside of work that is affecting them in work (that part, could be a whole different blog).

At this point you need to see what policies you have in your Employee Handbook; do you have a probationary policy, disciplinary or performance management/capability policies?  If you do, you need to start to follow those.  However, in general you need to note down the specifics and speak to them again, remind them that you spoke to them about this previously and remind them what was agreed.  Ask them why they think there hasn’t been any improvement.

If this is a new issue you need to let them know the next steps, this is where you have a choice; you can tell them if they don’t improve you will need to take formal action using the disciplinary policy (and go around the above loop again), or you can start to take action using the disciplinary policy.  Which you choose will depend on you and the issue, my only warning is you need to be consistent. If you have had similar issues with someone else before and you have gone to formal action, you should on the whole, do the same with this person.  The action that you take will depend on your policy, however it will be a long the lines of a formal investigation meeting, an investigation report and a disciplinary hearing which could then result in a warning, which hopefully should see an improvement.

If their work has never been good enough and they are new you might want to extend their probationary period, if they have one in their contract, and retrain them.  If they have been with you a while you have the same choice, with the same warning as above.  You can go straight to a formal process or you can loop around again with the informal conversation and hope for an improvement.  If you have a performance management/ capability policy then you will need to follow those steps, if you don’t you will need to follow your disciplinary policy.  Again, this depends on your policy but will involve a formal meeting or two and is likely to result in a warning.  Hopefully this sees an improvement.

With both scenarios, if there are no improvements and you have done everything you could reasonably do to support them along the way and the employee doesn’t decide to leave, you could end up dismissing them as they have been unable or unwilling to improve.  I am not going to lie it might not be an easy fix, you are likely to have some difficult conversations and it could be time consuming but I promise, the end result will be worth it.  You will either have an improved employee who is working well or you will have made the space for someone else who is as committed to your business and customers as you are.

At Grounded HR we would be happy to support you through this journey, coaching you and helping you prepare for these conversations and formal meetings.  We would also be happy to help you ensure that your policies are in the best shape to be able to support you with these issues.


Caroline Chapman