6 ways to deal with unreliable workers

Even if they have the potential to deliver phenomenal work, inconsistency can cause serious problems in the workplace.

Unreliable people not only let themselves down, they typically drain their manager of energy and time, according to Karen Gately, HR and people management specialist, and author of the book, The People Manager’s Toolkit.
The problem is they can’t be relied upon to deliver consistently and tend to cause havoc for the rest of the team, she added.
“It doesn’t matter how capable someone is, unless they choose to behave successfully their potential is wasted,” said Gately. 
The most important things you can do to deal with unreliable employees are these six things, according to Gately. 
  1. Commit to creating a successful environment
Take the step necessary to address the impacts unreliable people have on your team. It’s common for high performing staff to choose to leave a business because they are frustrated by the inaction of leaders in dealing with poor performers. Successful people want to be on a successful team and are typically disillusioned by a leader who fails to create an environment in which the team can succeed. 
  1. Be clear
Make your expectations of how people need to behave and perform clear.  Ensure each individual understands why their role matters to the team and businesses success.  Be clear about what is considered a successful standard of contribution as well as behaviour valued and expected. Explain the consequences that will be applied – both the reward and recognition people can expect, as well as the actions that will be taken to address unacceptable standards. 
  1. Walk your talk
Remember actions speak louder than words; once you have set your expectations you need to hold yourself and every member of your team consistently accountable. Inconsistent leadership undermines not only clarity but also commitment. Also impacted is confidence in your leadership. Leading by example and doing what you say is essential to building the depth of trust you need to inspire and lead your team to achieve the heights of your organisation's potential. 
  1. Act with strength and compassion
Guiding people to choose more successful behaviours requires that they trust you.  Trust depends on your ability to deliver honest feedback with respect and sensitivity. Be direct and truthful but also respectful to the individual, and they are more likely to respond well and improve.
  1. Follow through
Be prepared to take the actions necessary to reinforce the standards you set. Idle threats encourage the behaviours that are holding people back from being a reliable member of your team.
If you have given someone reasonable opportunity to understand your expectations and benefit from your support, and they continue to behave unreliably, you need to exit them from your business. Holding on to people who consistently underperform, despite your best efforts to help them succeed, will drain the spirit of your team and undermine your business's ability to thrive.
  1. Believe success is possible
For three years Gately worked with a leader to deal with ongoing frustrations caused by a senior member of his team who was brilliant one day and totally unreliable the next. The strength of the individual’s client relationships and depth of industry experience, together with their challenging personality made his manager hesitant to act. Faced with growing issues as a consequence, finally the decision was reached to deal with his conduct.

When ultimately faced with the threat of losing his job, the team member in question predictably threatened to resign. As planned the manager held firm and accepted his resignation to which the team member responded “fine!  I’ll think about it”.  In that moment the manager knew the tide had turned. The team member did return the next day and while it was at times a challenging road, today he is performing well and growing in his career.

More like this:

Pocket-dial puts employee in hot water 

Employees riot following unpaid wages, layoffs 

How to get the most out of a whistleblower program

Recent articles & video

Budget 2024: Public service to lose 5,000 workers

School board terminates 2 workers for theft, misappropriated funds

Ottawa launches Canadian Internal Trade Data Hub

Why is sleep so important for employees?

Most Read Articles

Saskatchewan looks to protect newcomers with new legislation

What does an employer have to report after a workplace harassment investigation?

Network for neurodivergent workers embraced by Canada’s public service