How to deal with problem staff

If you are an owner or manager of a successful recruitment agency, you no doubt have a number of different personalities and staff of varying levels of performance in your offices.

Big ego’s, quiet and methodical, high achievers, those that talk a good game but don’t deliver — any of these sound familiar?

I regularly meet my peers, other MD’s, CEO’s, and recruitment business owners and it’s clear we all seem to face similar issues with a few, select members of staff, so I thought I’d address this in this article.


Amongst the largely wonderful staff, it is clear we all face a few problem areas. I collated opinions and identified 5 key traits that cause all leaders a few headaches, which are listed below, along with my thoughts on the best way to deal with them.

1. The sick note

There is always at least one. The person that seems to be forever off sick, there is always an excuse, always “the flu” or food poisoning on a Monday.

The disruption caused by one day off may not seem much to the person who would prefer their week to start on Tuesday. But it’s not just to their own workflow that interruptions are caused — it may be to the clients and candidates that they service, it is likely to cause a problem to their immediate team and line manager, and maybe beyond.

How to deal with it

Send them for a medical. I did this once, to a consultant that was consistently off sick. I told him the firm wanted to support him and wanted to be sure of his wellbeing. Suffice to say that after the medical came back with a clear bill of health, the sick days reduced.

2. The faulty alarm clock

We’ve all heard them, “My alarm clock didn’t go off”, “the train was late”, yet they don’t rush in, they still walk in with their breakfast that they have just bought, and nowadays they don’t seem to be that bothered that they are a few minutes late (sadly it happens more than once, usually).

How to deal with it

You have to be fairly strict in the mornings. 9am team meetings every day, you are only allowed to eat your breakfast at your desk before 9, and other things such as that. This will soon add the culture of discipline you are looking for.

3. The ‘report phobe’

You know the type? However simple you make the processes you run they just can’t get out of the habit of doing “it” how they have always done “it”.

You ask for reports to be done, and they are forever late, it’s forever missing information or half done, or worse, not done at all.

How to deal with it

Compromise. Simplify your reports and inform them that you have made it easier on them, so there can be no excuses. Ask for less reporting and make sure it’s very clear as to why you need it. A 50/50 compromise has always helped my managers and I.

4. Stuck in their ways

If you are having success and growing then your company will benefit from hiring experienced recruiters and managers — people that can bring clients, candidates, revenue and experience to take your firm to the next level.

However, make sure they are the right people. Make sure they are people that are not stuck in their ways — they have to be open and adaptable to change, because if they don’t grow as a professional as the business grows, you could face trouble down the line.

How to deal with it

Firstly make sure you tackle all of this in the interview process. But if you find yourself inheriting someone stuck in their ways, then communicate — a lot — talk to them about why you need them to try things specifically your way. But also be open to letting them do a few things the way they want, compromise a little.

5. The Ego

The Ego is the Consultant that has a couple of good years of commission under their belt and now believes they are a world-beater. They can be prickly to deal with because they firmly believe that everything they do is the “right” way to do it. But when you need people to change for the growth of the company, they could be the most difficult obstacles you face.

And if you are changing the firm around them, they can start to feel disenfranchised with the firm because they, by their very nature, believe that their needs are the most important thing in the world. “The Ego” may even start displaying some of the other traits above, like the Sick Note, The Report Phobe, and the “stuck in their ways”.

How to deal with it

I am afraid that the Ego will rarely change. In my experience they will likely leave your business and start up on their own once they become disenchanted with the business because it’s changing too fast for them, or they feel that they are not most important person in the firm anymore. All you can do is prepare properly for the firm to grow even bigger and better when they leave.

We are all going to face challenging times in business, dealing with different personalities and difficult scenarios, but its how we handle them that make our companies great.

Rob Green

Rob is the CEO of GRMSearch and has been with the company since its launch in 2013. He is responsible for the leadership and strategic direction of the group as well as operational oversight of the Hong Kong, Australia, Japan and Johannesburg offices.

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