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Positive processes for challenging employees in your Service Department

February 17, 2021

Positive processes for challenging employees in your Service Department

Turning a Bad Seed around and knowing when to Prune.

By John Fairchild

In today’s environment, employable talent is at a premium and seems in short supply. Technicians and Advisors do not grow on trees, they are often hard to find and want top-level pay. It seems, at times, we are held hostage by problematic character types, and the reasons they have us at bay seems to give them the upper hand! But let’s have a reality check here, if we let this endure it’s tantamount to that old adage, “The tail wagging the dog.”

I want to talk about difficult employees, how they can poison a department and how to deal with them and turn that negative team energy around for everyone’s benefit.

Here are some typical situations I know you can relate with. Do you have employees who have consistently shown one or more of these behaviors?

  • Refuses or avoids work directly assigned to them.
  • Has a bad attitude and generally conducts themselves poorly.
  • Bad communications skills and habits…refusing to try to improve.
  • Attempts to control situations by using negativity.
  • Calls in, out sick, and pushes time off policies to the very brink.
  • Does the absolute minimum work expected, but just enough to keep from being terminated.
  • Bad mouthing and constantly testing and criticizing the Dealership processes and procedures with others.
  • Backstabs fellow employees.

Typically, with a challenging employee, there’s no sign of passion or drive, and commonly they have a very bad attitude. You may have even had numerous private motivational conversations already with them, only to disappoint you once again and leave you contemplating why you even have them around.

Odds are, this conduct has not only been successful for them in the past, but is simply part of their character. They may think they are clever enough, and even smarter than you and their co-workers, to gain the system.

A moral obligation to address this?

The best argument for constantly confronting this issue is the terrible affect it has on your departments culture, and efforts to constantly improve that culture in general. It effects the morale of co-workers and of those who work hard and follow the rules. Allowing situations with problematic employees continue can often cause otherwise productive and improving team members to sour and sometimes quit. Fresh un experienced hires can become disillusioned quickly and pick up a host of bad habits that may be irreversible. This scenario tests your ability as a manager and leader. Left un checked, it can and definitely will start to poison the well, and the rest of your team may waiver and perceive a lack of management consistency on your part.

No one likes to confront these sorts of badly-behaved employees, however, having an employee who is disrupting to business, has a bad disposition, or is quite bluntly a “bad seed,” requires immediate attention! Never ignore situations like this or pretend they will rectify themselves and somehow just go away. If you do, you may very well unravel any and all of the trust and credibility you have worked to build with your other team members. You need to attend to this type of matter directly and with consistency once you start to see unwanted actions. Do NOT delay, it will only get exceedingly harder to handle. We do not want the situation to get beyond repair.

The good news is there are some things you can do to correct this type of behavior and start holding them more accountable.

Stages for handling challenging employees:  

Stage 1: Verbal counsel and warning notice: Since this is step one, give them the benefit of the doubt BUT explain firmly. Reveal all of the details and bring that person into your office without making a huge deal. Be pleasant but very blunt and truthful, and talk over what you are seeing and how imperative it is to have the entire department working in synchronization. Inquire very forthright if there is anything wrong, or if there is some circumstance in the Dealership that is causing what is seeming a lot like “an unhappy employee with a bad attitude.” Pay attention and show understanding if the conversation is headed that way. There’s also a chance that there is an underlying personal issue that perhaps you know nothing about. However, if you receive cynical remarks like, “Nothing is the matter with me,” confront this by communicating your perception. You have to be tough, but not offensive, and let them know that the performance they have revealed is not acceptable and needs to improve and also how to do it.

Tips In Stage 1:

Be sure you are concentrating on the issue, not the individual. You are witnessing a behavioral problem that you are troubled with, but do not make it seem like it is a personal affront and you just don’t like them. Remain calm, let them vent, and be sure you are letting the person know that you are being attentive to their concerns with a restatement of the conversation.

Make sure to bring focus to their strong points, with an emphasis on the good facets of their routine rather than the apparent defiance. The objective is for the manager, and co-workers, to be optimistic, and not negative.

Put the issue in perspective as a whole and not the person. “I need to make sure the Service Department is functioning right,” or “I cannot accept preventable problems in the Service Department” Avoid focusing on the person and saying things like, “You need to…”

Document and date this dialogue as a “verbal warning”. This is not a written warning, but demonstrates that you did discuss the unacceptable behavioral issues. If you have to end up terminating the employee, the more documentation the better. A huge error is to not document.  Documentation and developing an example is the evidence that proves you spoke to this employee on several occasions.

Stage 2: Written Warnings 1 and 2: Carry on confronting until the problematic issues are gone. The employee might try to make you feel like you are singling them out, just stick to the facts. Also understand that you do have to show fairness for everyone. Here’s a common scenario, if the employee is always just a few minutes late, you need to make sure if there are others with the same thing they are disciplined also. Your concerns may or may not be as obvious as job performance or attendance issues. Again, make sure you document the overall conversation.

Tips In Stage 2:

At this point in the process

  • Clearly communicate what the solution is, and what the consequences are if the behavioral problems continue.
  • You may need to ask for the human resource person at you Dealership to assist. Exhaust all steps above first.
  • If the individual really shows considerable improvement, give the credit earned. It should be viewed that you are doing the best for the total good of the Service Department.
  • Do not talk about personal issues, or even what was discussed with employee, with the rest of the team.

Stage 3: Suspension and termination. Unfortunately, it may get to the point where you have tried everything mentioned in steps 1 and 2, and the employee is still not willing to modify the way they act. If these are the sad facts, then you need to begin suspension and/or termination procedures in accordance with your company’s policies.

By ever-vigilantly attending to this part of your management duties you can effectively manage difficult employees and prevent them from poisoning your Service Department’s spirits. From this ongoing point you will continue to gain momentum in building trust and comradery with your team to turn that negative team dynamic around for everybody’s advantage. I hoped this will help!

“John, I want to THANK YOU, you have been a very valuable team member”

~ Multi Franchise Dealer Group Owner Read more testimonials

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