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Question: What’s your number one tip for dealing with problem employees gently — so the whole team doesn’t suffer as a result?

“When you need to deal with a problem employee, be prepared to reference the original description for that position or project, and frame the talk around actions. ‘You need to stop doing this, and start doing this,’ is easier to communicate than blame or lectures. ‘You’re screwing this up’ or ‘Why can’t you get the numbers you promised?’ will just put the employee on the defensive.”

Kelly Azevedo | Founder, She’s Got Systems

The First Clean Kill Awakens the Herd
“If you have a problem employee at a startup, you should get rid of them. A small company has to function as one cohesive team, and even one troublesome employee will slow everything down. A mentor once told me, ‘The first clean kill awakens the herd.’ What that means is that your whole team will actually be relieved if you get rid of the problem that likely has been bothering them as much as you.”

Jason Evanish | co-founder, Greenhorn Connect

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
“Deal with the whole tree, not just the bad apple. The best piece of advice I ever heard on this was that you should identify the problem employee and observe them for a week. See who they associate with and who they have their ‘water cooler’ talks with. Generally, a bad apple is not isolated but part of a bad group. Deal with the group collectively and address any issues as a whole and don’t be afraid to fire a few people at once.”

Aron Schoenfeld | Founder & CEO, Do It In Person LLC

Show Some Respect
“Although they are causing problems, take them off to the side and talk with them about the issues. Don’t involve everyone because as always, that person may not realize you’re actually talking about them. Doing so face-to-face and not embarrassing them in front of others is always the best way to go. Put yourself in their place — wouldn’t you rather have someone approach you one-on-one?”

Ashley Bodi | co-founder, Business Beware

Provide the Right Incentives
“I think one must provide incentives to perform better and lots of positive reinforcement. Problem employees should not be reprimanded publicly, but in private. One should make it clear that good work will be amply rewarded.”

Zach Cutler | Founder and CEO, Cutler Group

Transparency Goes a Long Way
“Be as honest and transparent as you can. People want to know why; just know that some people don’t work out. If you try to hide that fact, it will backfire and your people won’t trust you anymore.”

Jordan Guernsey | CEO, Molding Box

Keep Your Cool
“Don’t blow your lid in front of the entire office. Rather, have a side conversation in which you outline the issues and your expectation in a constructive, yet firm, manner. People who are humiliated start to resent you, not work harder for you.”

Nicolas Gremion | CEO,

Get Rid of Dead Weight
“Fire them. You don’t have time for bullshit. Your team certainly doesn’t have time for bullshit. If employees become a problem, that means they’re not a long-term fit. The first moment you realize that, let them go. Carrying dead weight eventually hurts your entire staff and can endanger your relationships with your superstars.”

Brent Beshore | Owner/CEO,

Identify the Problem, Explain the Solution
“Don’t jump to conclusions. Very often we think we know what the problem is, but we don’t, and sometimes the employees don’t know what the root problem is as well. A co-working issue could be the result of a procedural problem. Whatever the case may be, you need to identify the real problem. Once you can identify the issue you can determine solutions. Figure out a solution that is going to create positive change, and then envision with the employee on how the workplace and the employee will benefit as a result.”

Benjamin Leis | Founder, Sweat EquiTees

Give Them a Second Chance
“Address the situation individually first. Be transparent about the problem, but let your employee know how he can do better, and encourage him. If things don’t get better, then fire fast. The last thing you want is a problem employee in the office.”

John Hall | CEO, Influence & Co.

Give Them Clear Consequences
“Managers should quickly address any issues one employee might be causing to avoid affecting the whole team. They should also provide consequences to follow through with if the problems continue or escalate. Putting the conversation in writing can also help to avoid future problems and make sure everything is clear. Finally, fire fast and hire slow.”

Heather Huhman | Founder & President, Come Recommended