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Common workplace challenges and how to deal with them

Kerrie-Anne Chinn
2019-01-29

Ever heard the expression “all workplaces are different; all workplaces are the same?”

 It’s true. No matter where you work, or who you work with, there will always be certain challenges to deal with. And some are more common than others.  

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Knowing how to deal with challenges quickly and effectively is the best way to get your team back on track. With the right strategies, you can prevent these issues from escalating any further and restore balance to the work environment.

Here are five of the most common workplace challenges that we’ve discussed on the Go1 blog and what steps you can take to deal with them.

Managing challenging employees

At some point, all managers will be faced with an employee who is difficult to deal with, has trouble working with colleagues, or continually fails to hit their KPIs and deliver.

When addressing an issue with an employee, it can be helpful for managers to know the difference between performance and behaviour. Why is it so important to distinguish between the two? Because differentiating between the two will affect the way in which you manage the situation.

If it is a skills issue, and therefore performance, then you’ll need to think about providing further training to your employee. You might also consider a mentoring or coaching solution. There may be limitations with inadequate tools, or software, or other problems with the workplace environment – these can then be reviewed and appropriately addressed. 

Similarly, if an employee is struggling to meet deadlines because of limited time, restructuring of work tasks could be a solution. In all of these scenarios, you can see that it is not the behaviour or attitude of the employee that is the problem.

In terms of misconduct, or behavioural issues, this can be harder to address and fix. Ensure that you have a current position description that clearly outlines the duties of the position and the performance and behavioural expectations of the job.

It’s important to have this serious discussion with the employee about their behaviour, so you can then identify a way to resolve it and come up with strategies to improve the situation.

This might feel difficult, but leadership comes with a price – and a significant part of that price is the responsibility to give feedback, coach and address the performance of any team member that does not measure up to expectations. Doing this with your employees is also an opportunity for them to grow and learn.

Dealing with employee absenteeism

Employee absenteeism can be a tricky one.

While it’s inevitable that staff will need to take time off from work every now and then, it’s important that employers and managers stay on top of absenteeism.

Certainly, absence from work due to sickness, injury, mental health, or caretaker duties should always be dealt with in a fair and compassionate way. However, unfortunately, some employee absences are based in less legitimate reasons – and this is where things can become more challenging for employers and managers.

All of the above reasons are considered to be authorised absences, due to legitimate reasons. On the other hand, we have unauthorised absences: calling in sick to attend a job interview, work on their CV, hang out with friends, go to the beach, sleep off a hangover… you get the idea.

To make things more complicated, an employee might be staying away from work due to bullying, harassment, burnout, stress or any other work-related reason. Or avoiding going into work because of heavy workloads, stressful meetings, or disengagement from their job.

If this is the case, employers and managers need to know, to get to the bottom of the issue and address it. You don’t want employees using their sick leave for these reasons, and you don’t want the kind of organisational culture where people are feeling too stressed, disengaged or under-valued to come to work.

An absenteeism policy will help to make things clearer when it comes to how absences are monitored, recorded and managed across the company. Your policy will help to inform employees of the exact process they should follow for any absence, including who, how and when to notify their employer

The policy will also include information on the difference between authorised and unauthorised absence, making it clear that unauthorised absence is a disciplinary matter that may result in action. When employees know that all absences are being monitored, reviewed and documented, the number of unauthorised absences is likely to decline.

Addressing bullying and harassment in the workplace

Many of today’s organisations pride themselves on being committed to diversity, equality and inclusion. However, unfortunately, bullying and harassment is still a serious workplace issue. And an issue that absolutely must be addressed by employers. 

When bullying becomes a problem in the workplace, it doesn’t just affect the person or people being harassed and targeted. It can very quickly become a problem for the whole company, with poor performance rates, reduced productivity, and low morale across the organisation.

Let staff know that the organisation’s goal is to provide all employees with a dignified and respectful workplace, and that any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination will not be tolerated.

Develop and implement a strong bullying and harassment policy, to show your commitment to providing a safe and productive environment for your employees, while promoting a positive work culture for all. This policy will also ensure your organisation is compliant in this area.

For staff, your anti-bullying policy will help them to accurately recognise and define unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, while guiding them to the appropriate resources and contacts for assistance. As an employer or manager, keep your door open. Keep your own mental attitude positive. Continually remind employees about HR policies you have in place around code of conduct, harassment and discrimination.

You can also use online training courses to make sure all employees are well-informed of the organisation’s stance and policies on bullying, and know exactly where to go for information and who to contact in the event of bullying or harassment.

Resolving conflict in your team

A certain amount of tension in the workplace can be considered normal. It can even lead to the generation of new ideas or ways of doing things.

However, things become much more serious if a workplace disagreement or discussion turns into ongoing conflict between two or more staff. Like any conflict, if allowed to fester, it will soon turn the workplace into a toxic environment.

If left unchecked, inter-office politics can result in bullying, harassment, and a negative work culture. It can also lead to poor team performance, low productivity, absenteeism, and high staff turnover – all of which will affect your company’s reputation and bottom line.

When there’s conflict going on in the workplace, whether it’s the office, sales floor, call centre or job site, it’s vital that managers keep calm and lead by example.

If a discussion turns heated and offensive in the workplace, managers need to take quick action to put an end to conversation.

Taking action and confronting issues head on is part of good leadership. Ingrid Fredeen, specialist in ethics and legal compliance training, recommends taking the following steps to address the behaviour professionally:

  • Avoid attacking the employees personally or taking sides
  • Talk with each employee separately
  • Focus on behaviour rather than opinion, instead of pointing out offensive or inappropriate conduct
  • Be clear that employees (who work for private employers) do not have an absolute right to express personal opinions at work
  • Help the employee understand the consequences for repeat conduct

The more that you practice taking action on conflict resolution, the easier it will be over time.

Keeping staff motivated and engaged

Last but not least: let’s talk about how to keep staff motivated and engaged in the workplace.

Have you noticed certain employees taking longer lunches, skipping meetings, or checking out mentally from their work tasks?

This can and will happen from time to time, when staff become disengaged from their job. Rather than getting frustrated with your employees, it’s best to have some strategies in place to help keep team members focused and on track.

Here are three things you can do to keep energy and motivation levels high across your team.

Set achievable goals

Work with each staff member to establish a goal that you want them to achieve. This could be hitting a sales target or deadline, landing a particular client or gig, securing a set number of new customers… anything that will help to motivate and boost their performance.

Recognise and reward

Positive feedback and recognition is an important part of increasing employee motivation and engagement. People are much happier, and work harder, when they feel valued and know that you’ve been paying attention to their efforts.

Provide training and development opportunities

Sometimes a lack of training can be what’s causing staff to feel disengaged and unmotivated. An employee may feel that they haven’t received the right training to perform at their best level, or that the company isn’t interested in supporting their professional development. Spending some time learning new skills can have staff coming out of training feeling re-energised and ready to put their new knowledge to good use.

As you can see, employee training comes up time and time again as one of the best ways to overcome challenges in the workplace. Whether you’re dealing with poor employee performance, lack of motivation, team conflict, or workplace bullying, effective training can really help mitigate these issues.

Investing in employee training will help to make sure your business continues to hit targets and reach organisational goals, driven by employees who feel supported and encouraged in their professional development and career.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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