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Resolving Negative Employee Behaviors Takes the Right Solution

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The easiest and most obvious solution to a behavioral problem is for the manager to arbitrarily pick a solution that he or she deems appropriate to resolving the problem. However, this does not take into account the motivational issues that can affect the final outcome.

A poorly chosen solution can compound rather than solve a problem, especially if the employee is resistant to the idea.

When confronted with an employee’s behavioral or attitude problem, the manager has several choices to make. If the problem is serious enough, termination is an option; yet with the high cost of recruiting and training, this may not be the best option.

However, dealing with negative behaviors and attitudes present sticky motivational problems of their own.

There may be resentment on the part of the employee concerning any solution presented to them. Often the best approach is to involve the employee in the development of the solution. When the employee is involved, they gain ownership of the solution, which insures that they will actively and successfully be involved in its implementation.

Additionally, they are privy to the process and see that a solution is arrived at in a fair and just manner, not arbitrarily. These steps minimize the motivational problems associated with the resolution of the problem and make it easier for the manager to work with the employee during the implementation phases.

Arriving at an appropriate and effective solution to remedy negative behaviors and attitudes need not take an inordinate amount of time. However, it should be done in a systematic manner so that the employee is actively involved in the process, can readily see how the solution has been arrived at, and understands it serves the interests of all involved.

The following steps should be adhered to during the resolution process:


The most practical approach to developing a workable and effective solution to a problem is through brainstorming. In these instances the manager is limited to brainstorming ideas and solutions with the employee who has the problem and with other managers and superiors who are aware of the problem.

This problem solving approach produces specific benefits by identifying all possible solutions from every perspective. Additionally, it includes the employee in the resolution of the problem. Empowering them by giving him or her ownership of the solution, gives the employee a vested interest, realizing a successful outcome.

Both the manager and employee should list every possible solution—even those that appear unlikely or impractical. Nothing should be dismissed without careful consideration; otherwise a negative atmosphere as opposed to an open-minded approach to a solution will be created.

Selection Criteria

Obviously not every choice brainstormed will be practical or feasible. However, before any idea is discarded, both the manager and employee should identify the criteria that will be used to evaluate each possible solution.

Criteria should be established according to specific parameters that result in the successful resolution of the problem. These might include the cost, timeliness, time frames, effectiveness and total resolution of the problem so that it does not occur again. Other criteria can be selected that assist both parties in achieving the overall goal.

Bracketing Choices

Once the manager and employee have agreed upon the criteria, it is an easy task to filter all of the choices developed through brainstorming and to bracket the specific options meeting the selection criteria. All other options are eliminated from consideration.

Since the employee is actively participating in this process, they can see the logic of the decisions that will impact them, which eliminates resistance to the final resolution.

Prioritize and Select the Best Option

The bracketing of possible solutions will typically identify several options to resolve a problem. Both the manager and employee should reach a consensus and prioritize each of the solutions in order of their effectiveness.

Invariably, the employee will not wish to see specific options chosen since they are not in their best interest or will take more effort than they are willing to invest. This is why a consensus should be reached as to what will ultimately constitute the best choices for a solution.

The final step is to choose the best solution to the problem, one that satisfies both management and the employee while solving the problem.


Six Ways to Turn a Poor Performer Around

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

Excerpt: Negative Workplace Attitudes (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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