If you’ve ever held a managerial role, you have undoubtedly come across the problem employee.

Whether they purposefully go out of their way to be an issue in the workplace or not, they become an issue the moment they start causing problems. While those problems can be professional and/or personal, the main goal is to nip them in the bud before they become a major distraction for the entire department.

On the professional level, the problems can include an array of mistakes, missing deadlines, being tardy for work and/or meetings. On a personal level, the issues can be bringing their home life into the workplace, not getting along with one or more co-workers and so on. Bottom line, you’ve got a problem to deal with.

Much like a brush fire, the key is to stop the problem from spreading. Once the problem has spread, it can lead to a dysfunctional department, an impact on the work performance of others in the company, and even a trip to court.

The first key to solving the problem is determining whether this is a professional or personal issue.

Is the employee’s work at the center of the matter? Are there things you can do as a manager to improve their workplace production or have you exhausted all your options? Did you properly train the employee or were they not given a fair opportunity to learn the required skills for the job? Can you afford to have this employee on your staff or will they continue to be a detriment to the team?

In the event it is a personal matter, how long of a leash will you give the employee before they hang themselves?

While individuals should leave personal issues in the home, it is inevitable that some of them will spill over into the workplace. The question becomes when is enough really enough?

Being we’re a society of giving individuals a second chance, most companies will also follow this mantra and allow employees the ability to work out the matter before any discipline or even termination threats are issued.

At the end of the day, job satisfaction and employee retention are directly tied to the quality and happiness of an employee’s relationships.

To wish for or expect every employee to be a perfect role model for the department is just that, wishful thinking.

As a manager, your ability to navigate through troubled waters with employees from time to time will serve both you and the company you represent well.

If the issue/s with an employee are becoming too much for you to handle personally, seek the help of your human resources department who may be better equipped to deal in such matters.

Being in charge of your department, be sure to document any and all issues with a troubled employee, seek a solution, and be sure to not let the matter spill over to your other workers.

When you work with a troubled employee to form concrete goals and a timeline for fixing the issue, it is a win-win for everyone involved.

If you don’t do that, your small brush fire could turn into a major alarm in more ways than one.

AvatarDave Thomas

With 23 years’ writing experience, Dave Thomas covers business topics for a variety of websites.