Putting Out Fires with Troubled Employees

A recent study found that the average employee who is unhappy with their job will stay in their position for an average of two years before quitting. This trend has led to a significant increase in turnover and increased costs associated with hiring, training, and onboarding new employees.

The professional way to say putting out fires is a phrase that has been used for many years. It is used to describe the process of dealing with difficult situations in an effective manner.

If you’ve ever worked in management, you’ve probably encountered the problem employee.

Whether they set out to be a problem in the workplace on intentionally or not, they become a problem the minute they start creating issues. While such issues may be professional or personal in nature, the primary aim is to address them before they become a significant source of distraction for the department as a whole.

On a professional level, issues may include a wide range of errors, missed deadlines, and being late for work and/or meetings. On a personal level, problems may include dragging their personal lives into the job, not getting along with one or more coworkers, and so on. In the end, you’re dealing with an issue.

The goal, similar to a brush fire, is to keep the issue from spreading. Once the issue has spread, it may result in a dysfunctional department, a negative effect on other employees’ job performance, and possibly a trip to court.

Determining if this is a professional or personal issue is the first step in addressing the situation.

Is the employee’s job important to the situation? Is there anything you as a manager can do to enhance workplace productivity, or have you exhausted all your options? Did you adequately train the person, or did they not have a fair chance to acquire the job’s necessary skills? Can you afford to keep this person on your team, or will they continue to be a liability?

How long will you give the employee a leash before they hang themselves if it’s a personal matter?

While personal problems should be kept at home, it is unavoidable that some of them will find their way into the job. The issue is, when is enough really enough?

Because we live in a culture where people are given second chances, most businesses will follow suit and give workers the opportunity to work things out before imposing punishment or even threatening termination.

Job satisfaction and employee retention are, at the end of the day, intimately related to the quality and pleasure of an employee’s connections.

Wishful thinking to anticipate or hope for every employee to be a great role model for the department.

As a manager, your ability to maneuver through difficult situations with workers will benefit you and the business you represent.

If the problem(s) with an employee are getting too much for you to manage on your own, contact your human resources department for assistance. They may be better prepared to handle such situations.

If you’re in control of a department, be sure to record any and all problems with a problematic employee, find a solution, and don’t allow the problem spread to your other employees.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone when you engage with a problematic employee to set clear objectives and a timetable for resolving the problem.

If you don’t do so, your little brush fire may quickly escalate into a big disaster.


The putting out fires synonym is a process that can be used to prevent further problems in an organization. It involves identifying the source of the problem, and putting it out.

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