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Difficult Employee Situations
No one likes to deal with difficult employees but if you're a business owner, you will most likely have to at some point. Difficult employees can cause work interruption and co-worker problems. Some business owners fear terminating the difficult employee due to retribution or lawsuits.
Employees who are allowed to continuously defer from company policy without warnings or documentation can be tough to get rid of and if terminated, often threaten the employer with lawsuits, department of labor reporting and are able to obtain unemployment insurance. With proper documentation, business owners can take hold of their work environment and make it clear to employees what will happen if company policy is violated.
First, make sure your employee handbook clearly states what is considered a violation of company policy. Examples would be frequent absences or tardiness or leaving the workplace without prior approval. It could also be driving a company vehicle without permission. Whatever you policies are, make sure you list them in your handbook and list how warnings will be applied.
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Warnings and Documentation
For each company policy violation, list how warnings will work. They should be in writing with a clear description of what the employee did to violate the policy, the date the policy was violated, and a place for both supervisor and employee to sign. Finally, the employee should be given a copy of the written warning. G-Neil, a human resource products company, sells great three-part employee warning forms that don't have to be super specific. You can also find a useful employee warning template in our Media Gallery.
Usually, three warnings are enough to terminate an employee. Make that clear in your handbook that if a person receives three warnings they may be terminated or demoted; whatever your policy entails. If you utilize your own warning form, be short and concise and put no emotion into writing the violation. Make sure there is a place for the employee to write his or her comments. If the employee refuses to sign the warning, write that on the form and give the employee a copy of the warning. If the employee is insistent upon giving you an earful, let them talk and just listen.
Failure to document warnings makes it almost impossible to terminate a difficult employee. If you do terminate an employee without warnings, be prepared to lose when they apply for unemployment insurance and some of the most difficult will file a complaint with the Department of Labor. All complaints filed with the Department of Labor open a case audit. If this happens to you, expect a visit from a Department of Labor representative and a long, drawn out investigation.
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What About General Attitude?
Some employees just don't work well with others. They can cause conflict and arguing in the workplace. While this isn't a direct violation of policy, you should have stated in your employee handbook that as the owner, you will provide a comfortable and safe working environment for all employees. If other employees continuously complain about one person, you can still give them a written warning based on this theory.
This type of warning can be shown as either insubordination (not getting along with other employees) or general attitude that interferes with work production. Again, if you have an employee with a general attitude problem, make sure they understand the three-warning rule.
Dealing with difficult employees is never fun, but failing to document warnings is worse. For more information, read Your Employee Handbook: What Should Be In It, and use the sample warning template found in our Media Gallery. In addition, you may want to check out this guide to writing a letter of termination for those cases when an employee fails to respond to your documented warnings.