When good employees become problem employees

It’s a problem I come across sometimes.  An employee has been great for many years.  Then a change creeps up on you.  You realise they are making more mistakes.  They are no longer meeting their targets.  Their attitude seems different.  Can this really be happening and how do you address it?


Arsenal’s problem employee

Laurent Koscielny joined Arsenal in 2010. He has made over 350 appearance for the club.  He has also been club captain for several years.  During that time I’ve seen him doing everything he could for the team, being injured many times in the process. Before this summer, I’d have said he would have done anything for his employer. Something has changed.

When asked to go on a preseason tour to America, he refused.  Arsenal told the World what had happened.  It seems the relationship between club and employee has completely broken down.  What could have been done to avoid this?


What triggers problem behaviour?

It is highly likely there has been a trigger for Koscielny’s behaviour.  It is rumoured he wants to move back to France.  He is also said to feel his return from major injury was poorly handled.  Koscielny has worked for many years under a different boss.  Last summer that changed.  The change in management style may have been causing him stress.

If your employee is behaving differently, you need to first establish why.  Personal issues, management changes and bitterness over decisions made could easily be affecting your employees too.


Finding out the cause

Consider examples of how you think things have been different.  Examples can be a useful way to explain your concerns.

Make the opportunity to talk to them in a relaxed and private environment.  Make sure you are not going to be interrupted.  Turn off your phone.  Whatever it is, it is important to them.  If you are distracted this will be seen as proof you are not interested.

Tell them that you are concerned about them.  Say that you wanted to ask if they were OK and if there is any support they need from you.  Encourage them to talk about anything they are struggling with.  The most important thing here is to show you are listening.

Consider if there is anything you can do to support them. They may be looking for more training, better communication or more flexibility.  They may have personal issues that they have not known how to raise.

Like Koscielny, they could just be determined to move on.  If you can at least have a dialogue about this, you can manage the situation better.


For more information on how to hold a difficult conversation, please contact me.

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