People Management
4 min.

Staff Turnover: Stop Ignoring Problems!

Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair
Last updated on 6 Dec. 2023
Published on 3 May. 2021
Employé qui démissionne de son emploi parce que les problèmes n'ont pas été gérés à temps.

When an employee falls short of their desired performance, undermines team morale or breaks company rules, are you the type to let it go and wait for things to work themselves out?

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Or do you take the bull by the horns and try to find solutions without delay?

If you fall into the latter category, you’re on the right track.

One thing is for sure—the costs associated with hiring, training and integrating new employees overwhelmingly justify putting some extra effort into employee retention.

No doubt about it.

Do You Suffer From Acute “Boss Niceness”?

When it comes to problematic employees or situations that require intervention with an employee, the first question to ask yourself is this:

Are you the cause of the problem?

I jokingly describe a boss’s fear of addressing employees in negative contexts as “acute boss kindness” syndrome.

Giving clear, timely constructive feedback is imperative so that employees understand what they need to improve. You’ve probably heard the expression, “Too little, too late.” Don’t let this describe you!

By reacting promptly and appropriately, you will likely be able to prevent a problematic situation from unravelling.

True Story

A friend was telling me about a coworker who disrespected the rest of the team on a daily basis. His boss knew it, but didn’t do anything.

Was he perhaps afraid of asserting himself… of setting boundaries? Of not being liked?

Internally, people justified the situation by saying, “Well, she’s good at what she does.”

The boss wanted to keep her on, but at what cost? Employees were increasingly demotivated to come to work, the atmosphere was miserable, and team cohesion was abysmal.

After a while, the employee was so disliked that any attempt to fix the situation proved futile. Had the situation been addressed earlier, termination would not have been the only remaining option.

Boundaries? What Boundaries?

Are your business’s rules of conduct clear, accessible, and understood by all employees?

Between you and me, how can an employee even be blamed for breaking rules…

if they were never explained or presented to them in the first place?

To avoid problems, the best strategy is to set very clear boundaries and to establish consequences to be applied if they are not respected.

When clear, specific expectations are presented, everyone knows where things stand. Relationships are only richer and more authentic, and things are smoother.

You may be afraid to project an image as someone overly harsh or rigid, or not nice enough. Think again! What really makes you seem mean is suddenly firing an employee because they violated a rule that only you were aware of… That’s the truth of the matter.

The Person-centred Strategy of Coaching

When you have a problem with an employee, if your goal is to foster retention within your team, the first course of action is coaching.

This approach shows the employee that they play an important role on your team and involves coaching them to improve their performance or to stop systematically showing up late, for example.

Your employees are first and foremost human beings. Anyone can go through a rough patch in life, or struggle with following a rule.

Empathy is key. Speak to your employee right away. Ask them what’s going on and clearly name the problematic situation.

Ask the employee the reasons for their behaviour, or for the change in their work habits. The goal is to pinpoint the source of the problem. Only then will you be able to concretely support your employee to resolve the situation.

Examples of Situations Where Coaching Can Be Useful

💡 A member of your team responsible for opening the store each morning never seems to complete all of their tasks properly.

If it’s a matter of competence:

  • Find suitable training;
  • Monitor the employee’s performance;
  • Stay with the employee throughout the process.

💡 An employee has shown a drastic change in attitude at work for several weeks. Everyone agrees that she’s changed. She doesn’t smile as much at customers, or even her coworkers, and work seems to have become a chore for her. You decide to meet with her and after opening the conversation warmly, you find out that she is going through a painful separation.

If it’s a psychological issue:

  • Consider whether it would be appropriate to offer leave, or even a lighter schedule;
  • Lend an attentive ear;
  • Demonstrate your empathy and ask her what she thinks would help her feel better.

💡 A member of your team has always performed fairly consistently, yet over the past month, he seems to be failing to meet the demand. He can no longer answer the same number of customers as usual, and seems exhausted at work and overwhelmed by events…

But what might these events be?

If the poor performance is due to personal reasons (motivation, worries, fatigue, private issues):

  • Share what you’ve noticed with your employee and ask if he would like to talk to you;
  • Try first to see if he has any idea what might be causing the drop in performance;
  • Then see if he might have a solution to suggest: Perhaps a fairly simple change would help improve the situation.

Anxiety Begone—Be Assertive!

Intervening in a negative situation is stressful for everyone. But if there is one thing you should take away from this post, it’s that it is not a luxury but a duty. As a manager, for the sake of your team’s well-being, and for the sake of honesty, be transparent and address issues when they arise. Stop ignoring them.

And if you’re still wondering… No, they won’t work themselves out on their own.

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