Avoid the high costs of allowing problematic behavior with these tips.

Quick story: Last week, my husband and I went to one of our favorite little cafes for a quick lunch. There was someone new behind the counter and my husband asked if she was the owner, and she was.

When I asked after the team member who typically worked the counter, I learned they were no longer with the company. I asked, “is it because they were kind of salty? I mean they were nice if you didn’t interrupt or want to change the kind of bread your sandwich was on. But if you did, their face told you exactly how they felt about it.”

Of course, the owner was professional and wouldn’t share details, but I did learn that I hadn’t been the first person to ask a similar question since the owner had taken over the management of her operation. Besides that, while we were enjoying lunch, my husband noticed that the cafe appeared even cleaner, and the staff seemed a little sunnier than they had in the past.

Bottom line: having a team member that isn’t in line with your values could be impacting your business in ways you may not even realize. Read on for tips to help you recognize when you have an issue with a team member and what to do about it.

The high costs of keeping the wrong team member

As a regular customer of the cafe I mentioned, my weekly spend is about $30-40 for two people, and over the course of a year that’s a decent amount of money. The reason I had been willing to return despite how I’d been treated or how I’d witnessed other customers being treated was that the cafe is the only one of its kind in the area. That’s literally the only reason.

In our industry, there is usually enough competition that you don’t have the luxury of being the only game in town.

Could you be losing repeat business due to a team member snapping or rolling their eyes at being asked a question or getting annoyed every shift?

And then there’s the rest of the team! Bad behavior can cause a ripple effect, causing good staff to become disillusioned by your allowance of the behavior. Ultimately this leads to high performers either leaving to find a better work environment or falling victim to “if you can’t beat them, join them” syndrome.

Managing people is tough and it’s likely that we’ve all let a little behavior go unchecked from time to time. But, if you don’t want to pay the high costs, it might be time to take the steps to address the issues.

Step 1: Identify the problem.

It’s likely that when you first read the title of this blog, a team member already came to mind. That’s a BIG sign that you should probably address issues sooner than later. Take some time to consider each member of your staff, how they behave individually, with your guests, and how well they work with their teammates. Things to look for: poor performance, doesn’t work well with others, not being coachable, overly negative or argumentative attitude, or if the team member is resistant to change. These are key indicators of a problem employee.

At the recent Experience Academy event in Orlando, we took a deep dive into developing a strong work culture. Russ Van Natta, VP of Business Development for Creative Works, outlined the framework for the Ideal Team Player (as defined by Patrick Lencioni) as a means for you to determine if you have the right people on staff.  An ideal team player is comprised of three core characteristics or virtues: being humble, hungry, and smart, and what it means to have different combinations of those characteristics at work within your team.

Lencioni’s company, The Table Group, also offers a free online assessment that you can use as an exercise with (or about) the members) of your team if you need help getting started.

Step 2: Dig in.

Once you determine that there is an issue with one or more team members, take the time to dig in and learn why. Poor behavior isn’t always because someone is a terrible employee or an awful human being. They could be having personal problems, issues with a coworker, or they simply might not have enough clarity about their job. Take time to (patiently) ask questions to see what might be going on for this team member before taking action.

Step 3: Give them a chance.

Some will tell you that when you identify a problem employee, you should immediately let them go. And for extremely problematic behaviors, a zero-tolerance policy is best. But in general, I believe that everyone deserves a chance to improve. Once you’ve identified and learned what’s causing the issue(s), try coaching. Share that you value the team member, discuss your expectations, where they are missing the mark, and ask them if they are able and willing to make the changes necessary to remain on the team. Get them to share how they see moving forward with the team and determine a period of time for them to work on improving their behavior.

Sometimes, otherwise solid employees get so caught up in what’s going on in some area of their job or lives that they truly have no idea how they are behaving or being perceived by others.

If they’re open to feedback and willing to make the changes, you also would have to be willing to provide the coaching along the way to help them meet their potential. Have regular check-ins where you identify the improvements you’re seeing, ask how it’s going for them, and offer more guidance or redirection as necessary. And if they’re not willing or able, then unfortunately you have to allow them to self-select out for the good of your team and business.

Step 4: Assess and reassess.

Team dynamics can change quickly so it’s a good idea to regularly look inwardly to see how your team is working together. The best-performing teams trust each other so try to foster trust with an open-door policy, asking often for feedback, and exhibiting core behaviors yourself so that staff will look to you as a model. There are many resources to help you on this journey, so don’t be afraid to look outside for help. Good luck!

Interested in joining us to take a deep dive into your team dynamics and overall guest experience? Contact us to attend the next Experience Academy in Atlanta in August, 2022 for free. Email Sherry Howell for a free scholarship at showell@centeredgesoftware.com. 


How have you worked on your team dynamic? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

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