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Problem Employee? How to Decide Among Coaching, Probation, and Termination

Posted By: Moses Robles on October 3, 2022

illustration of an employee leaving work with a box of her belongings

A problem employee is a significant issue because they don’t exist in a vacuum. As weeks and months go by, their lack of performance, toxicity, and just overall bad attitude become a virus that affects both their team and the company.

Tardy, unmotivated, inflexible, bossy, impatient, uncompromising, and change-averse employees will not only give you a hard time but also put your company in a difficult spot.

How do you know whether to coach them, discipline them, or just let them go?

1. Coaching: Pros and Cons

Coaching is an excellent way to help an employee improve both personally and professionally. The first step is to meet with the employee to determine whether they’re aware of the issues and are open to learning and evolving.

The pros: When done correctly for the right employees, coaching plays a big role in bringing about a mindset change. If successful, employees who are grateful for the guidance and the opportunity to improve tend to be more loyal and are able to tackle other issues that are standing in the way of their professional growth.

The cons: If you sense rigidity, your efforts are likely futile. Some employees are creatures of habit, whether they’re good or bad habits. Coaching will fail to achieve the intended outcome if they refuse to change.

Recommended Read: Companies Must Be Flexible, Attractive, and Decisive for Today’s Hiring

2. Probation: Pros and Cons

When coaching fails and the employee continues to make the same errors and refuses to learn, probation puts extra pressure on them. This is a warning period that outlines specific changes that the employee needs to make. If they continue to make the same mistakes once the probation period ends, you must consider terminating them.

The pros: Probation compels many employees to think differently and start taking their job seriously. If they care about their career, this step provides a clear road map to correcting behaviors or work ethic that’s standing in their way of success.

The cons: Like coaching, probation is not a guaranteed fix. If your employee is too laid back for your company’s liking, probation may not be effective in increasing their intensity and focus. In addition, they may read probation as the inevitable doorway to termination and either resign (which may not be a bad thing) or just allow the separation process to unfold on its own.

3. Termination: Pros and Cons

illustration of a man sitting on his briefcase with his head in his hands after being terminated

While this may sound harsh, termination may be the best step if the infraction is egregious enough or when all other steps have failed. As a manager, take some time to understand where both coaching and probation may have failed to achieve the desired change. If the employee is simply not motivated, it could be time to terminate.

The pros: When an employee isn’t a good fit, terminating allows the company to find someone who is. It also allows the employee to find a company that may be better suited for their personality or work habits. No one wants to be in a bad marriage, and termination allows both parties to move on.

The cons: Termination is stressful for both the employee and the manager. Being terminated is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life and can leave an indelible impression. Some employees will get emotional, from feeling as though they are a failure to acting violent. In many cases, violent employees have displayed that behavior on previous occasions; it may be why they are being terminated. Be sure to take special precautions with employees with a history of violence when you terminate them.

Recommended Read: Signs Your Team Is Underperforming and How to Turn Things Around

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