Enterprise Software

Foundations of Personnel Management: Personnel issues

Part one covered <a target='_blank'href='http://www.techrepublic.com/5100-10878_11-6096663.html'>interviewing and hiring</a>, and part two discussed <a target='_blank'href='http://www.techrepublic.com/5100-10878_11-6096678.html'>employee personnel management</a>. In part three of this four-part series, we'll explore how to deal with personnel issues in the organization. Topics include how one problematic employee can affect the entire staff, when you should try to "rehabilitate" rather than fire an employee, and how to fire an employee if it comes to that.

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 morale. 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

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