Case Study – Problem Employee

We often hear about the employers that don’t treat employees well; but you know, it sometimes works the other way as well. I had a call from a gentleman who was at his wits end as to what he could do with an employee that he has had on his payroll now for 5 years. This employee is running the entire show! He’s a bully and the employer is to the point that he is actually afraid of him – not in a physical sense – but in the sense that he’s afraid to stand up to him because – oh no – heaven forbid – he may quit!
The employer has completely lost control of this fellow because he never had the courage to set any boundaries or expectations from the start and his leadership has been extremely inconsistent. So, how did this happen, you may ask? The background: The business owner has a small restaurant. He and his wife and brother-in-law opened the restaurant about 7 years ago.
The business started to grow and he brought in the employee in question to help them out. At first, the employee was really good and the owner gave him more and more responsibilities, to the point that he felt fairly comfortable in leaving him to open up on occasion and actually assist with the business decisions, etc. The business continued to grow and he hired a few more people, mostly part time, to work during lunch and dinner times.

After a few more employees were hired, the original employee (we’ll call him Joe), started to exhibit some less than desirable behaviours by coming in late; opening the doors and then within 15 minutes, he would go out back to have a smoke break (virtually leaving the business open without anyone inside, which the owner found out by coming in a couple of mornings right after Joe and finding the place empty); talking on his cell phone right in front of customers (putting the customers on ignore while he chatted away on the phone); and when the owner tried to speak with him, Joe just held his hand up right in the owner’s face shutting him down.
On occasion, when Joe decided he’d made enough tips for the night – he would just leave – an hour – sometimes two hours before his shift actually ended! To heck with the schedule… he’d had enough…too bad…so sad. Oh – and he didn’t like the owner’s wife – so he told the owner to keep her out of the restaurant – and he did! It has now gotten to the point (according to the employer) that Joe comes and goes as he pleases and in fact, he has told the employer that he can’t do anything about it because he’d have to pay him to terminate him.
The employer, unfortunately, does not know his rights in this case – and he has let it go on for so long now that he is getting treated this way by all of his employees. The example has been set! The saddest part of all is that the employee tells the employer what he will and will not do and the employer has no one else that can step into this fellow’s shoes because everyone else is part time and does not have the same level of restaurant business experience. At least, that’s what the owner believes at this time.
So; how did we go about finding a solution to this problem when up to this point in time nothing was documented?Case Study – Problem Employee – Part 2 Published: November 1, 2010 The first thing we recommended to this employer was to take a good look at his current employees and consider which ones he could provide more training and development to so that if this problem employee did walk out; he could still manage his business.
We also advised him that allowing others to develop their skills would not only increase his ability to provide a better quality business for his customers, it would also provide learning opportunities for his employees that would encourage them to stay. The next thing we did for this employer was to give him information around the basic employment standards act that he needed. He was allowing an employee to tell him what was required by law, and in fact; most of what he was being told was inaccurate.
Ignorance is definitely not bliss for a business owner who employs others. We gave him “fact sheets” with the main areas that he should make himself familiar with so that it was easy to understand and didn’t have a lot of unfamiliar language to interpret. The next thing we recommended is that he considers doing is allowing us to develop an employee handbook and some basic policies that would help him in communicating to his employees moving forward.
We recommended that he have a staff meeting prior to the construction of the handbook to allow the employees to have some input or suggestions. We offered to provide support at the staff meeting if he wished; but certainly this is something that he could do on his own as well. We offered to present the handbook to the employees with him so that we could respond to any questions and he didn’t have to feel concerned about how to respond (particularly because he believes the problem employee is going to challenge the implementation of a handbook and policies).
We next suggested that he implement a performance management system that aligned with the handbook and policies and we will assist him through coaching sessions as to how he can manage the process. While this is a lot of work for him and it will not be an overnight solution; he has unfortunately allowed his employee to gain control of his business – and not in a good way. Due to the fact that he has not managed the whole relationship well and it has deteriorated to this stage, it will be a long process to repair the damage.
The good thing is that he did seek help and he will learn how to retain employees through the provision of learning opportunities; he will have some ‘standards of operation and behavioural expectations’; and he will have a performance management system to ensure a more fair and just working environment. Last, but not least; we are also going to provide some ‘culture coaching’ sessions so he can develop a strong and healthy workplace that fits within his mission and values. As this project is not yet complete, we will report back on occasion to let you know how we move through the recommended processes.


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