4 Ways to Turn Problem Employees into Star Performers

Sheena Stemler Management Best Practices Leave a Comment

Do you have a problem employee, someone who is elusive, non-compliant, and generally difficult to deal with? If so, you are in good company; nearly every manager has at least one employee like this. When it comes to problem employees, you have three options:

  • Let them remain on staff as they are
  • Fire them
  • Turn them into star performers

Most managers choose one of the first two options simply because they are unaware that turning a problem worker into a good employee is possible. It is, and it’s easier than you may think.

4 Ways to Turn Problem Employees Into Star Performers

You can transform your problem employees into game-changing workers. All you need is a little courage and a few simple steps like these…


#1 – Give them something to be in charge of – Very often, difficult employees have strong personalities and the potential to be strong leaders. Develop their leadership skills by giving them something to be in charge of. Be it a group project or an entire team, make them your go-to people and see if that doesn’t change their attitudes and activate their leadership capabilities.


#2 – Give them an event to plan – What company events do you need to begin planning? Whatever they are, considering allowing a problem employee to plan them. This will be especially stimulating to gossipy employees who love to be in on the social scene. Let them redirect their social energy into planning an event. You might be shocked at how maturely they take ownership of the project. Who knows – their tendency to gossip might even wane in the process.


#3 – Give them a talking to – Just because you know so and so is a problem employee doesn’t mean he or she knows. If you’ve never discussed your complaints with this individual, be sure and do so. Not only will this clear the air and protect you from resentment, but it will also give your employee the information he or she needs to make a behavior or attitude change. If you choose this option, be sure to soften the blow by sandwiching your complaints between genuine compliments and encouragement.


#4 – Give them a chance to be heard – Is your primary complaint with your problem employees that they underachieve? If so, another talk is in order. Andre Lavoie, CEO and Co-Founder of ClearCompany, wrote, “If you’re confident that an employee has more to give, there’s a disconnect between you somewhere. Perhaps the actual day-to-day job he’s doing isn’t what he expected it’d be, or maybe he’s just bored. Talk to the underachiever to find out what he likes and what he doesn’t like about his job. Find out if he needs more challenging work to motivate him, or if he feels he’s not being given the opportunity to use his strongest skills. This will allow you to redefine his position so he can flourish like you always knew he could.” Giving a problem worker a chance to be heard will validate him or her and help your “employee makeover” efforts.

There’s no denying that some employees are lost causes, but these types of individuals are few and far between. Most problem employees are star performers at heart. What they need is a manager with the finesse to detect and mine the gold in them.




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