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By Darryl Stewart

How to deal with your problem employee

Gallup asked eighty thousand managers: “You have a talented employee who consistently shows up late for work.  What would you say to this employee?”

Common answers were:

  • I would lock them out
  • I don’t care as long as they stay and get their work done
  • I would fire them, we don’t tolerate lateness
  • I would give them a verbal, then a written and then fire them.

These are defensible answers, but the statistically great managers answered something along the lines of:

  • I would ask them why

Herein lies the secret to dealing with your problem employee.

  1. Define the outcome you have agreed on with them (100% on time for the next 60 days).
  2. Hold them accountable for their results (you were 10 minutes late Tuesday and 15 minutes late Friday).
  3. Ask them why they have fallen short and listen, really listen, to the why.  You may have to ask more questions and keep your tone and posture neutral to get them talking – use every ounce of self-control you have not to be judgmental during this time.

To summarize… define the outcome together, constantly hold up a mirror (and make them look at it) and then ask the why.

If you can get to why you can usually figure out how you can help, either help them reach the outcome, agree to change the outcome or help them leave your organization.


IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.