How to Manage an Employee Whose Performance Is a Challenge?

You Must Take a Stand and Manage the Employee's Behavior

Managing an employee's poor performance starts with a coaching meeting.
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Reader Question: How to Manage an Employee Performance Challenge?

I have an employee who has a sense of entitlement and feels that she is always burdened and overworked while other employees are "taken care of." For example, leave time must be approved and she frequently submits leave requests for the same dates as her co-worker.

If you deny the time off, she argues that it is her vacation time and that she is allowed to use it whenever she wants.

A consistent response from her is, "It's the manager's responsibility to supply adequate coverage." The employee leaves early without asking permission, stating that she had the time coming to her. Recently, she left the office for a meeting, and when questioned after returning, her answer was that she told her co-workers, and the manager could have asked them where she went! Any recommendations or suggestions?

Human Resources Response to the Reader:

The first thought that came to my mind is that this employee is running the show - and may have been for a long time. To change the behavior, you need to take a firm stand.

First talk with her and try to find out what is going on. Was she overlooked for your position? How long has this behavior been going on? Attempt to identify the source of her unhappiness. Talking with her, indicating that you care about her and are interested in her might solve the problem.

If that changes nothing, though, you need to tell her in no uncertain terms that her behavior is not acceptable and that you expect it to change. Plan with the employee exactly what must change.

You must be ready to hold her feet to the fire and use disciplinary action if necessary to change this person's behavior.

It is not acceptable if you are the manager.

Link Behavior to Job Performance

It's easier to correct behavior if it is affecting her performance, so if you can link any of these actions to her job performance, potential raises, performance evaluation, etc., all the better.

Her leave time is not up to her to take whenever she wants if it must be approved. I hope your employee handbook says that managers must approve leave. When she leaves early or pursues other actions that are out of the ordinary, simply state that she must inform you, in advance, the same as all employees. If you are not informed, it is a reason for disciplinary action, which you will take.

Additionally, discuss with Human Resources whether your company should grant paid time off when the handbook's policy of approval in advance is not followed by the employee. I would not pay for the time.

You need to take the same actions when she attends meetings and does not tell you. You must be informed. It is not up to you to have to track her down nor to ask her coworkers where she is or what she is doing.

I'd make this a policy for all staff if you haven't already. You don't want to micromanage them, but you want to be informed if they change their hours or schedules.

If this is already a policy and your staff, know, if you don't treat this employee the same as you treat the others, you are potentially discriminating - and certainly losing the respect of your other employees.

Solutions for Time Out and Off Problems

I have seen professional organizations institute an In and Out white board where employees must note where they are at all times. This board keeps employees from feeling as if they have to report to mom or dad each time they pursue legitimate business. It also keeps the manager or coworkers from having to ask.

Regarding leave time, some organizations post time granted on an internal calendar and employees are informed about the coverage necessary. If they apply for time off that is already allotted to another employee, they must either get coverage themselves or make a case for why they should have the time in addition to the employee for whom you have already approved time off.

I hate to institute any systems or rules for the many if only one person is at fault. So, your best path to implementation of any idea is to involve your team in creating something that they want or need.

Additionally, you need to establish the expectation that time that is requested that would affect coverage or another employee's time off, is usually time allotted for an unplanned event, such as a funeral.

You cannot disadvantage the employee whose time you have already approved. But, you can create the expectation that employees will respect each others' time off requests.

Ball's in your court on this one. What will fail is listening to her or arguing with her about what she says she is entitled to have. The minute she sucks you into a discussion about whether her actions are legitimate, she has you.

The truth is, they are not legitimate actions, and you need to take a firm stand. Here are several resources that will help. Or, nothing will change. You need to draw a line in the sand - now.