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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Can Problem Employees Be Cured?

by Shel Horowitz

Rich Giombetti and Paul Alves of Family Business Center sponsor Giombetti Associates have given several presentations on how to hire great people. At the Center's March gathering, their focus was different: how to turn around problem employees.

Rich Giombetti pointed out that salvaging and redirecting an employee already on board is considerably cheaper than hiring a replacement. If you have a $40,000 employee on board for six months, it costs $36,592 to start over-and only a small fraction of that to deal with the issues.

Often, the cause of conflict is a mismatch between the employee and a supervisor; moving the employee to a different department may change a disgruntled, demoralized failure into a success story.

In other situations, the employee may need skills training. A supervisor who can't listen or accept criticism is not going to be effective., for instance-but if the employee can address these skill deficits, everyone's morale and productivity will rise.

So before deciding to fire, ask yourself these questions: Do I want to turn the person around? Does he or she fit with the team? Does he or she contribute? Is this person in the right role or position? Will he or she be receptive to help?

If you get too many nos and do have to fire, get expert help. Giombetti noted that Massachusetts employers have to abide by 27 different statutes when terminating, or face an unpleasant time in court.

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