Handling Employee Challenges

June 13, 2016
Handling Employee Challenges

Know it All

We have all had the experience of working with a “know it all.” The person in the office that thinks they have all the answers. They act like they are never wrong and constantly demonstrate how smart they are. This trait typically reveals insecurity or narcissism or some combination of the two.

As a leader, you have to assess the impact that this employee is having on co-workers. Employees who are reticent to share their ideas and insights will shut down in the presence of a know it all. This is detrimental to idea generation and knowledge flow and it creates a demoralizing environment. The know it all will dictate and drive situations.

This situation becomes difficult to manage when the know it all employee is talented and brings value to the company. You can try to work with them by doing such things as acknowledging their view and suggesting alternative facts and realities that challenge it, and encouraging others to weigh in.

Yet, it may come to a decision: you will have to weigh the benefits that this employee brings against the morale and culture of your company.

Rumors in the Workplace

People who spread rumors in the workplace, do so because they want to feel important – they are “in the know” about something.

Knowledge is power, so those with the least amount of power are the ones that start rumors.

Rumors are harmful. They make the victims feel uncomfortable and betrayed, which can lead to isolation and declining commitment to the company. They can result in cliques of employees and power struggles. The result is a negative impact to company culture.

While you can’t totally prevent this behavior, there are some things you can do to set the right atmosphere.

When people are aware of what is happening in a company, they don't need to guess as much and false statements are marginalized. Use newsletters, weekly meetings, or regular updates to let people know what's happening.

Establish a policy for dealing with rumors that includes how you'll deal with the people who engage in this behavior.

The more that people understand why the behavior is damaging, the more likely they'll be to monitor their own participation.

Remember, transparency and communication are the enemies of rumors.

Responding to Nasty Employee Emails

Eventually, it will happen to you: you are the recipient of a nasty email from a disgruntled employee. The email could be the result of a disagreement, a performance evaluation, or a personality conflict. Whatever the reason, your reply sends a signal to the employee and others, because the employee, whether sanctioned or not, might discuss your response with other employees; either in person or through social media.

Do NOT immediately respond and hit the “send” button. This is the worst thing you can do. Wait and calm the defensive feelings.

Then analyze. Reread the email. Ignore offensive language and get to the heart of what is bothering the employee. Be objective and empathize. Call them. Ask to meet and discuss. And then listen. Don’t allow yourself to engage in an argument. Express your respect for their opinion and then reiterate yours.

Finally, convey that while they have a right to disagree, they must do so in a respectful and professional manner. At the end of the day, it is probably how you handle the confrontation, rather than the issue itself, that will have a profound impact on your culture.

Drugs in the Workplace

Employees who are using drugs is probably one of the most sensitive and difficult challenges you could face. Small businesses may be particularly disadvantaged, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, at handling workplace substance abuse. They typically lack the means to develop workplace programs, which OSHA suggests should include training and education.

The severity of the issue for small companies in large part depends on the type of business, for example, safety-sensitive environments like manufacturing or transportation.

There are potential warning signs if you suspect that an employee is abusing drugs or alcohol such as:

  • mood changes,
  • poor performance,
  • altered appearance such as grooming, weight gain or loss, slurred speech, and
  • problems with relationships.

Be careful, because each of these can be explained by many other factors. If you see a pattern and believe you have reason for concern, contact someone, such as a doctor or drug counselor. It is best not to confront your employee but approach as a concerned colleague.

OSHA does offer a number of free resources through its website to help small businesses develop substance-abuse programs.

Managing an Employee with a Personal Crisis

Workplace issues involving a serious personal crisis – particularly the illness or death of a loved one – present a situation that requires a balance between your role as friend or comforter and your role as the boss.

While all of us want to be supportive, you do have to remember that there is a business to run.

There are some things you can do to navigate through the crisis. Distinguish between your role as manager and friend. Opening the door for frequent conversations and counseling could get out of control. Suggest professional counseling, particularly if this is covered by your company’s health insurance.

Think about the impact of their situation on productivity and how to adjust work schedules. Develop a plan that includes more flexible hours, telecommuting, etc. But be sure to include milestones and timelines that need to be met. This not only helps the company, but it relieves stress on the employee. They know that they can get their work done and still do personal care.

Finally, checking in with the employee on a consistent basis helps them to know that you care.

Get advice on how to handle all situations – from rumors to nasty emails.

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