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Shane Decker

How To Deal With Problem Employees

Here’s how to make sure your people stay accountable to your store’s “absolutes.”




THE DEFINITION OF management is a person’s professional ability to delegate, hold team members accountable, make accurate decisions, and get duties done in a timely fashion. And of course, the biggest responsibility of all: training your team.

I talk a lot in my training about “the absolutes.” This is a set of principles that anyone who works in your store must live and abide by if they want to remain employed. In other words, “the absolutes” are rules that are non-negotiable, and as sales floor manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team is following them. Make sure your rules comply with your state’s retail laws before you start handling areas of concern or problem employees. That said, here are my suggestions for how to handle an employee who continues to break your code of absolutes.

  1. Always give new team members time to learn the absolutes. Be patient. When they’ve reached the time limit and rules still aren’t being followed, call them into your office and tell them they have 30 days to improve. This meeting should be a friendly discussion of the areas in which they need to improve. Tell them you’ll give them the tools, knowledge and training to help them succeed. (Side note: always have the assistant manager or owner in the room. Some even record the meeting so that the employee can’t come back later and say, “You didn’t say that.”)
  2. Second meeting: If they haven’t improved after 30 days, call another meeting. This meeting should be more direct. Explain that they have to be more urgent about improving in these areas. You want them to succeed, you’re good at giving second chances, and you will set goals that they will have to achieve. At this time, assign another team member as their accountability partner.
  3. Third meeting: If they still haven’t improved after 30 days, write them up. Write down the areas in which they need to improve. They sign it and know that if they don’t improve, they could be terminated.
  4. Fourth meeting: After 30 days, if they’re still not stepping up, they get a more serious write-up and three days off without pay. Tell them they need to decide if they want to work in your store or not. When they come back, meet with them again and find out what they think they can do to improve.
  5. Fifth meeting: After 30 days, if they haven’t improved, they get a week off without pay. Tell them that if they are to remain employed, there has to be a change. They can leave or be fired; the choice is theirs. If they choose to leave, they turn in their keys and they are gone. At that time, conduct a full inventory and change all keys.

Obviously, we don’t want these meetings to have to take place. The more you train and meet with your employees to work on their weaknesses, the more they will feel competent and important. When you give them the tools they need to succeed, the team, the client and the store all win.

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