No one relishes having to deal with employee problems, but
when you’re an IT manager, this situation will definitely arise. The key is
handling the situation in such a way that has as little impact on the rest of
your staff and, ideally, allows you to retain your employee in question.
Remember that resolving an existing problem is cheaper than recruiting, hiring,
and training a replacement employee. (Keep in mind that we’re talking about
run-of-the-mill performance problems and not behavior that is illegal or falls
outside of your corporate policies.)

One bad apple…

An employee with performance problems is not just a
manager’s problem—it’s a problem
for the entire staff
. Staff members can resent taking up the slack for a
poor performer, and rightfully so. Hostility and anger from a problem employee
can permeate and infect the whole environment. Unfounded cynicism can also
spread to the rest of your staff—even your good performers. For these reasons,
it’s important that you take action with an employee who is exhibiting problems
with productivity and behavior as soon as you detect there is a problem.

Employee rehabilitation

Your first step should be to identify the problem and try to
understand the reasons behind it. Why should you do this instead of just
starting dismissal procedures? There are several reasons.

One is staff
. You don’t want your staff operating under the assumption that the
axe will fall at the first sign of a mistake. It may be tempting (and seemingly
less complicated) to walk around with a God complex, but you should resist the
temptation. Employees are more productive in a supportive environment than they
are in an intimidating one.

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Another reason why you don’t want to be too quick to fire
someone is because the employee may just not be in the right job role—a change
in duties could turn everything around. You should talk to the employee to
determine whether the problem rests solely with the employee or the problem is
caused by organization-induced obstacles that are beyond the employee’s
control. A problem employee who is “rehabilitated” may turn out to be
one of your organization’s greatest assets. The employee in question may have
just needed some guidance and well-meaning advice.

Problematic employee behavior may also be an indication that
there’s a more pervasive problem in the department or organization.
Ask yourself (and potentially even your employees): Is the working environment
respectful? Is the culture open to employees who don’t “fit the
mold?” Are your departmental rules counter to
institutional policy? Is an employee’s perceived bad attitude just a reflection
of your own bias in favor of a preferred communication style? These are tough
questions, but ones that you must answer in order to eliminate the possibility
of problems before they arise.

Firing an employee

If you go through all of the appropriate channels, and an
employee’s behavior is still unimproved, then it may be time to consider
termination as a very real possibility. No one looks forward to this process,
but keep in mind that you are performing this action for the good of your team
and your company.

However, if you fire an employee prematurely (even for what
you know are legitimate reasons), you could set your organization up for some
hefty legal fees. Unless you work with Human Resources to follow a standard and
well-documented dismissal process, there’s a good chance that the employee will
sue for wrongful termination.
Also consider that federal law, institutional
policies, and special status through entitlements affect the disciplinary process.

For a comprehensive list of resources on handling personnel
issues, see page two.



  • When does a
    personality quirk become a productivity issue?

    Even if an employee isn’t breaking any rules from the company handbook, it
    doesn’t mean he or she isn’t causing problems with the team. Keep an eye
    out and fix small problems before they spread.
  • Go the extra
    mile before writing off an employee

    A member has been promoted to director of IS and finds that an employee
    seems unqualified to work in IS/IT. Find out what steps this member should
    take in order to give the seemingly unqualified employee a chance for an
    IS redemption.
  • Dealing with
    ‘Billy’ and other marginal project team performers

    Managing a marginal performer is like driving around with your parking
    brake engaged—you’ll probably reach your destination, but not without some
    friction and possible damage. Heed this advice on managing such staffers.
  • Hostile work
    environment: A manager’s legal liability

    The number of lawsuits involving hostile
    work environments is increasing every year. As a manager, you can be held
    liable for cases that happen under your watch. Find out how to keep your
    workplace free of sexual harassment.
  • When should you
    release a team member?

    A marginally productive team member can make work difficult for the rest
    of your team and potentially place your project in jeopardy. But it’s not
    always possible to kick one off your team. Find out how to determine your
    strategy for this dilemma.
  • How to fire
    an employee

    There are some unpleasant responsibilities that
    IT managers can’t delegate. Terminating an employee is one of those tasks.
    Andy Weeks provides guidelines to make sure you approach employee
    termination in a professional manner.
  • Don’t let
    staff leave without an exit interview

    When employees leave, it isn’t just their skill
    set walking out the door—departing employees can provide valuable insight
    and feedback that can help you improve your company. That’s why you need
    to conduct well-planned exit interviews.
  • How IT can
    contribute to a more productive, positive workplace culture

    In a workshop with IT pros, the author of this
    article asked what the main barriers to success were for their groups.
    Surprisingly, the answer was not something that could be fixed with
    technology—it was management and workplace culture.

White papers

  • JD
    Edwards World Human Resources Management

    Many organizations look to their HR departments
    for workforce planning, information management, and employee development
    aimed at raising the overall level of workforce skills and commitment.
    Learn about Oracle’s JD Edwards World Human Resources Management, a
    comprehensive solution for managing your employee lifecycle.
  • The
    Impact of Workplaces on Employee Attitude and Economic Outcomes

    In this paper by the London School of Economics and Political Science, employee attitude
    surveys are used to consider whether a workplace can induce good or bad
    attitudes among its employees.
  • Rebuilding
    IT Culture After Organization Change

    When IT management changes the structure of its organization to align with
    an IT goal, it needs the new organization to achieve smooth operations as
    soon as possible. The affected staff has to settle into new roles, new
    departments, and new processes. This Forrester Research paper explains
    that IT management should facilitate adoption of the new operating model
    by taking specific steps to create the new organization culture.

Read the entire Personnel Management series