How to Handle Awkward Employee Issues

by Jordyn Rickard

Employees can present you with some awkward situations, but as the boss, you have to be prepared to deal with them. Here's how to handle three of the most common difficult conversations you'll face.

difficult conversations
Image source: Photospin.com

As your company grows and expands, bringing on more employees will be a given. Company culture is a big part of the success of a business. With the right people, anything can happen and powerful minds can come together to do big things.

As with all people, everyone operates differently and has a different perspective on life. A person’s lifestyle, mannerisms and respect meter can influence their performance and the performance and culture of the other staff members as well. Learn how to expertly manage uncomfortable situations and nip them before they become a larger, more serious problem in the workplace.

Hygiene Issues

Everyone has had a day where they rush out of the house and forget to put deodorant on, but if you find that a certain employee is consistently smelly or disheveled, a talk might be in order. In addition to just an off odor or disheveled look, some employees dress for the club rather than the office.

To handle a hygiene or dress concern, pull the employee aside and set a tone of a judgment free, open environment. Mention that yourself and others are concerned about a personal issue and ask if they are okay with you continuing. From there, state the facts objectively and try to offer a constructive, easy to implement a solution. Having this type of talk may awaken an employee to a situation they were not aware of. They will appreciate the honesty and respect you’ve given them by approaching it objectively with solid solutions.

Interoffice Interactions

Gathering around the water cooler and laughing over a funny story is what brings you and your staff closer together. Unfortunately, an interaction can be taken a little too far when someone begins to feel comfortable and lets their guard down. Whether it is a vocabulary concern, vulgar language, or strange mannerisms that include a “casual toucher” or sweet talker, it needs to be addressed immediately to keep the workplace neutral and productive.

Once again, pull this particular employee aside and be honest about your concerns. Use lines like: “Some of your vocabulary terms aren’t appropriate for the office and I’d appreciate you keeping the conversation PG as to not offend anyone,” or “While I know you mean well, some people are uncomfortable with being patted on the shoulder or grabbed by the arm.” Reinforce your concerns and let them know these actions cannot continue any longer and will need to be stopped immediately.

Related: How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace

Respecting Authority

As a company grows and expands, roles often shift or become created to best suit the end needs of the customer and flow internally. This can at times mean that someone who trained an individual is now expected to take orders from them, or that a junior employee with less tenor has now become senior to someone who has been employed longer. Role shifts and promotions can ruffle feathers, create gossip, and cause unwarranted feelings towards one-another.

With this type of awkward HR moment, don’t wake a sleeping dog. Employers want to be proactive about nipping a concern before it becomes a problem, but it’s best to give your staff an honest chance to adapt accordingly. Should the transition not go well, address the staff as a group and explain that you’ve made these shifts based off of pure qualifications and fit for the position. Reiterate that nothing was done with mal-intent and that you really feel it’s the best move for the company’s growth and expansion.

Related: How to Manage Employee Conflicts in a Small Business

The more open and honest of an environment you create, the less of a chance of having these concerns there is. With volume and expansion, they will come up from time to time. Having the skills and knowledge you need to target the concern and handle it like an expert will gain you more respect from your employees all around. 

Jordyn RickardJordyn Rickard is a young marketing professional with over 5 years of experience in marketing and strategy for small and medium sized businesses. With an education in finance and an extensive freelancing background, she’s had the privilege of developing solutions that work for small businesses. Currently, Rickard works as a Success Coordinator for Synduit, a marketing and consulting firm for small businesses. Reach out to Rickard on twitter @jordynatsynduit.

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