Handling Employee Behavior Issues
Stephen Tharrett and James A. Peterson
Steps toward a solutionWhen an employee's behavior falls short of expectations, the following steps (similar to those that should be considered when dealing with a performance shortfall) should be taken:
Catch the shortfall early. Don't let behavioral issues fester. Too often, managers will let behavioral mistakes slide, unless they are significant violations. This approach is never acceptable. Once you are aware of a behavioral issue, it should be addressed immediately. In many instances, behavioral shortfalls are brought to management's attention by other employees and/or members.
Validate the issues surrounding the behavior. If you have observed the behavior yourself, knowing what situations surrounded the behavior is easier (i.e., an argument). In the event the behavior was reported by another employee or a member, do your homework. Talk to the individual or individuals reporting the behavioral issue, and get the facts from both perspectives.
Don't make it a public affair. As a leader, the manager should never embarrass an employee by announcing the individual's behavioral shortfalls. Employees should be dealt with on a personal level and behind closed doors.
Focus on the behavior, not the person. Deal with the behavior, not the personality. Employees should never be personally attacked for their behavior shortfalls.
Counsel and coach. Once the behavioral shortfall has been observed and/or identified, set up a private meeting with the employee. Clarify the purpose of the meeting, and make sure you have all the facts pertaining to the behavioral shortfall. Be sure to validate the presence of the behavioral problem. Validation can take many forms, including agreement from both parties, management validation with employee denial, etc. This step does not require that the employee be in agreement with management's viewpoint. For example, if the issue involves theft, it is highly unlikely that the employee will admit to being a thief. As a result, management will be the party that validates the problem.
Then, establish the consequences, such as a verbal warning with a note placed in the employee's file; a written warning, with copies to both parties; a suspension for a period of time, with documentation of the action placed in the employee's file; or termination. Next, develop an action plan for change. The action plan should include a specific timeline for changing the behavior (e.g., one day, one week, etc.); a set of agreed-to action steps that need to be taken; and the consequences related to the outcomes of the action plan. Finally, execute the consequences, commit to the action plan, set a follow-up appointment and hold everyone accountable.
Don't forget to celebrate success. Once employees have successfully turned their behaviors around, it is essential to recognize their achievements.
Expect the bestThe ability of an organization to affect the attitude and behaviors of its employees ultimately is the responsibility of management. The more thoughtful and systematic the approach by fitness centers operators, the more likely the desired outcome will result. As such, you must expect and demand the "best" from your staff. Expectations tend to elicit commitment. In turn, the quality of peoples lives are in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence.
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