Can I Hold Employees Accountable as a Group?

Posted on April 18, 2012 by Keith Sanders 3 Comments

This is a question received following a webinar I delivered today on “Handling Difficult Conversations” and my response.  I trust it will be helpful for you too if you are dealing with difficult people in your workplace.

Q:   When should issues be addressed individually vs being addressed as a group? If it’s an issue that happens with a small group of people but not the entire staff?

A:   Great question.

I am vehemently opposed to “having a staff meeting” to address ONE person’s unacceptable behavior.  It can be a real morale killer when everyone must sit through a meeting while knowing who is the guilty party.  Because…many times, the accused leaves the meeting totally clueless, unaware the reason for the meeting was his or her unacceptable behavior or lack of performance.  So, in that case, individually.

However, if a historically passive-aggressive employee begins a “scene” in a staff meeting, calmly say “This is not the time to address that.  Let’s discuss that after this meeting.”  If they refuse to let it go, calmly repeat the same phrase.  If they persist, tell them their behavior is unacceptable and ask him or her politely to leave the room so you may conduct the meeting.  In this case, that person essentially “forced” you to hold him or her accountable in a public, or group, setting.  This would be acceptable.

Most times, I advise dealing with employees displaying difficult behaviors in private, with a witness present if you deem it necessary.

Even in a small group, the underlying causes of the problem may be different with each employee.  So, one-on-one discussions are the most effective to uncover potential problems that may be keeping the employee from performing up to standard and prepare an individual course of action to get back on track.

It may take more of your time now, but it should save you time in the long run by cutting down on repeat offenses.  Also, choosing to discipline in a group session could lead to legal issues for you or your company if someone feels he or she was mistreated, embarrassed in front of co-workers or if they feel their job was threatened.




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