You are a small business owner with a thousand things on your mind and tasks to mark off your “to do” list. Like a gnat buzzing in your ear, you know you need to deal with a technician who is surly and chronically late, though he does really great work. You keep putting it off because it is NO FUN to deal with employee issues. But you serve yourself, the business and the employee most when you address problems directly and sooner versus later.

Be sure you check your own behavior before addressing the employee. Do a “temperature taking” of staff that you trust to make sure your own behavior is up to par, that you aren’t being grumpy or unpleasant. No one wants to take criticism from someone whose own behavior is questionable.

Address concerns early and in private. Behavior that doesn’t meet company standards is likely to deteriorate if not confronted early on. No one wants to be counseled publicly, even if it is just a passing comment. Show them respect by taking them to a private office.

Be sure to maintain empathy. It’s important to ask up front if the employee is dealing with something, either at work or at home, that is placing a strain on her behavior and performance. Offering a sympathetic ear can sometimes turn the situation around.

Make sure your expectations are clear and reasonable. Be brief and to the point. Don’t drag on and on about why you need to counsel them. Explain what’s wrong and what would make it right. End with something positive.

Make sure you have a process in place for yourself and managers on documenting counseling sessions. Generally after a verbal warning, there is a written warning, probation and then termination.

Leading with enthusiasm, clarity and transparency on your own shortcomings will generally help build strong teams. The strongest recruiting effort can’t always identify and weed out challenging employees. Develop strong systems in advance for managing these issues. I offer consulting and training on human resources management. You can read more here or call me now for a 30-minute free consultation.


by Steven Schlagel