Personnel e.bulletin – July 2015

Background image for Personnel e.bulletin

Shared Responsibility for a Positive Workplace
Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

Your customers’ satisfaction and company’s success start with a positive environment for your employees.  If employees are concerned or distracted because of other employees’ antics – such as chronic late arrivals or disrespecting coworkers – the workplace will be less productive and customer service can suffer.

Therefore, it’s important for managers to face ongoing concerns honestly, directly, and respectfully and to tie actions into what is best for accomplishing your company’s mission.

Before diving into some concrete examples of behaviors that need to be addressed, here are the general steps you as a manager can take to act on a problem and facilitate a more positive workplace:  

  1. Evaluate the situation.  Ask yourself how serious the problem is; whether it contradicts one of your company’s core values; and whether it affects employee performance and customer service.
  2. Communicate. Communication is key. You might be talking to one employee or multiple employees about the issue. Whatever the case, prep what you want to say so it comes through clearly. Use a matter-of-fact tone and explain how the problem is negatively affecting the team and the company’s goals.
  3. Make it personal. If possible, address the issue from the perspective of improving the work environment for them and their coworkers. Many employees are more willing to make an effort to help their coworkers versus asking them to change for the company’s good.
  4. Follow up with the employee and review your company policy, if necessary. Ensure that the employee is responding to your conversation. Depending on whether the problem is ongoing and widespread and whether it’s covered in the employee handbook, onboarding, and training, you may want to create a new policy or evaluate and change an existing policy and alert your employees.

Note that each of these steps ties back into helping employees refocus on work – the ultimate goal as a manager.

The following examples illustrate common employee behaviors that affect and can potentially irritate co-workers and therefore need to be addressed.

Example 1 – An Employee Routinely Calls Out at the Last Minute

Evaluate: Document instances of time off, look for trends, and record how it affects other employees.


  • If someone has called out at the last-minute multiple times, the issue needs to be addressed.
  • Make clear to your employee that you understand that unscheduled leave is sometimes necessary, but at the same time, share with the employee how calling out affects other employees and the financial impact of the lost work time.
  • Clarify that you expect notice to be given before leave is taken in accordance with the company’s policies. Also explain that if an employee unexpectedly needs to take leave, they must let their supervisor know as soon as possible.

Follow Up:

  • If the problem continues, there might be something else going on such as a chronic illness. Following up will give you a chance to gather that information and form a plan with the employee, if necessary.
  • If the employee’s unscheduled leave continues, disciplinary measures may be necessary.
  • Since this behavior affects other employees and customer service, tie it to performance management and bring it up when giving employees feedback.

Review your policy:

  • Do not allow people to take sick/vacation time they haven’t accrued.  If they take days they haven’t earned, they should not be paid for them.
  • Make sure employees are aware of the company schedule so they understand the impact of unscheduled leave.

If you aren’t sure how to address sick or vacation leave issues, consult an outside HR resource or legal counsel, since depending on the size of the company and jurisdiction, there could be Family Medical Leave Act implications.

Example 2 – An Uncooperative Employee

You have an employee who “isn’t good with paperwork” and does not provide coworkers with the information they need to perform their jobs.

Evaluate: Consider whether providing the paperwork is part of the employee’s job and whether it’s clear in the employee’s job description.  Document examples of times the employee failed to provide information/paperwork as required by their job description.


  • Pull the employee aside and clarify your expectations that paperwork and communicating is part of their job description and will be part of performance evaluations. Make it clear that helping the other employees likewise helps everyone in the company get their job done.
  • If the problem is widespread, make clear to all employees – whether individually or in a group meeting – that documentation, paperwork and communication are key to running a successful company. The expectation is that everyone will do what’s necessary for all employees to be effective. Include specific positive examples (not specific individuals’ failures).

Follow up: Address this like any other performance management issue. Have another conversation with the employee if necessary, issue a warning if the behavior continues and proceed with consequences based on the situation and other aspects of the employee’s performance.

Review your policy: If not already a clear part of your company’s culture, incorporate the culture of cooperation and teamwork more thoroughly in the employee handbook, onboarding, and training.

Example 3 – An Employee is Routinely Late for Work

Chronic tardiness can be a serious issue for your company. Not only can it affect other employees who have to pick up the slack, but if there are no consequences for the late employee, others may feel that they too can arrive late. In our industry, this can quickly cascade into disruptions on the jobsite or in customer service schedules.

Evaluate: Document instances of lateness to see if late arrival is an ongoing issue.

Communicate: Meet with your employee; make clear how the tardiness affects other employees and customer relationships.  Clarify the consequences for continued lateness.

Follow up: If the employee’s tardiness continues, move on to disciplinary actions. If the late arrivals continue, dismissal may be required.

Review your policy: If an emphasis on timeliness needs to be a bigger part of your company’s culture, implement it from the beginning of onboarding and training.

Example 4 – An Employee Constantly Complains to You and Other Employees


  • Employees should believe that they can come to you with issues, and if you find that something needs to be addressed, it’s important that you resolve it or share the problem with your own supervisor.
  • However, if an employee is noticeably and constantly complaining, it might be time to address the behavior. Investigate whether the complaining is creating a negative environment for other employees.


  • Make clear that employees should go to their supervisors or the owner if they have issues.
  • If the employee is complaining just to other employees and not to you, explain that the other employees can’t address the problem and that likewise you can’t unless you know what’s going on.
  • Explain how the complaining affects the rest of the team and how else it might be affecting getting work done.
  • Clarify that one of your expectations is that if employees have issues, they will bring them to you and that doing so is a job requirement. Explain the consequences if the behavior continues.

Follow up: If the problem is ongoing, talk to the employee again.  Proceed with consequences depending on the employee’s overall performance and how much the behavior is affecting the rest of the team.

 Example 5 – An Employee Routinely Leaves a Mess for Others

Whether in a communal kitchen or in a shared equipment/tool/materials area, an employee who leaves a mess for others to deal with is causing strain on coworkers in the company.

Evaluate: Determine whether the employee’s messiness affects other employees or customer service.

Communicate: If the answer is yes, address the issue.

  • Talk to the employee one-on-one, preferably in the problem area if there is sufficient privacy, so that you are assisted by visual evidence.
  • Make some suggestions about how the area can be better maintained, with clear explanations about how their actions are affecting others and the consequences of continuing the behavior.

Follow up: Cleanliness and organization can be a part of a job description because they can facilitate how the job is done. Therefore, just like with any other policy, follow up with the employee and give feedback.

Lead by Example

An important way you can address these issues and help create a positive workplace for your employees is to model the behaviors you want to see from them.  For example, take your turn at maintaining equipment, cleaning the kitchen, have a prompt arrival time, lend a hand to your employees when you can, and avoid last-minute call outs yourself.

By making positive behaviors part of your company’s culture – by directly and honestly addressing issues and setting a good example – you can optimize employee performance and dedication to your company’s mission, and therefore help deliver the best service possible to your customers.


This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of April 2015. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

Read Issue — PDF format, 175KB