6 min read
Book a Free Consultation

How To Handle A Problem Employee In Your Local Government Office

By Stephen Brandofino

Local government officials frequently face a unique set of challenges when managing problem employees. These challenges are intensified by strict labor laws, complex union guidelines, and the basic need for transparency and accountability in the public sector. 

This detailed and thorough exploration will provide in-depth insight and practical tips for effectively managing the difficult challenges associated with maintaining the smooth operation of employees in essential public services. We will explore the multifaceted aspects of this sector, propose real solutions to major issues, and offer insight on strategies that will ensure these public services continue to help the public while also adapting to a constantly changing world.

Characteristics of Problem Employees in Government

Problem employees in a government workplace will frequently behave in a way that can be extremely disruptive in any work setting. These poor behaviors are even more costly when they occur in government workplaces, distract other workers, or bring the overall office morale down. Some characteristics of these problem employees include:

  • Poor Performance 

This can occur when an employee fails to meet the specific and often stringent performance standards required in public service roles. For example, consider a government employee who consistently fails to meet deadlines. A missed deadline or a delay on a project can have far reaching impacts not only on other employees but even in the community. 

Learn all about How to Use Benefits to Attract Government Workers.

  • Negative Attitude

Negative and even bitter attitudes can have a greater impact in a government job than any other, because of the collaborative nature of these municipal jobs. An employee who consistently has a negative attitude can demoralize their co-workers and even make the workplace a dreadful place to spend time. This can lead to a decline in productivity of the entire department and it will lead to a negative shift in public perception of the department as well as the quality of the public service. 

Learn everything about Interdepartmental Government Communication Strategy here. 

  • Non-Compliance With Government Policies 

Government employees and local government officials are often held to higher standards of compliance due to the public nature of their work. Non-compliance can range from ignoring safety protocols to misusing public resources, which can lead to significant public trust issues.

  • Lack of Teamwork 

In government settings, teamwork is crucial for the effective delivery of services to constituents and efficient workflows within the municipality. An employee who struggles to collaborate can hinder project progress and impact service delivery to the public.

Check out our guide on How To Improve Municipal Services for Underserved Community Members

  • Conflict Generation

Conflicts in government settings can have far-reaching implications, from disrupting internal operations to impacting public perceptions. Employees who frequently engage in conflicts can create a hostile work environment, affecting staff morale and public image. 

To combat this, check out our resource on Creating A Positive Work Culture In Local Government Offices.

  • Ethical or Legal Issues

These are particularly concerning in municipal roles. Issues like harassment, discrimination, or fraud not only violate ethical standards but can also lead to legal repercussions and damage public trust. 

Learn how to Build Trust in Local Government and Keep Your Constituents Happy

What Is The Impact of Problem Employees in Government Workplaces?

The presence of difficult employees in government jobs can have extensive and varied effects:

  • Decreased Team Morale and Public Service Productivity

The morale of a government team is closely tied to its ability to serve the public effectively. An employee with a problematic attitude or lack of work ethic can demoralize colleagues, leading to reduced productivity and compromised service delivery.

  • Disruption of Government Operations

Problematic behaviors can cause significant disruptions. For example, a government employee who fails to adhere to procedural guidelines might cause operational delays, affecting critical public services like healthcare, education, or infrastructure. 

Learn about our Various Software Solutions for Every Department here. 

  • Conflict and Communication Issues

In municipal office settings, where clear and effective communication is paramount, a problem employee can exacerbate tensions and lead to breakdowns in communication. This can result in mismanaged projects and public dissatisfaction.  

Learn all about Government Communications Strategy

  • Detriment to Government Work Culture

A toxic work culture in a government office not only affects employee satisfaction and retention but can also reflect poorly on public perceptions of the government entity. 

  • Management Strain

Government managers may find a significant portion of their time and resources diverted towards addressing the challenges posed by problem employees, leading to reduced efficiency in other critical areas.

Check out our Government Administration Software

  • Legal and Compliance Issues

The public sector is heavily regulated, and non-compliance by employees can lead to legal challenges, including lawsuits and regulatory penalties, which can be costly and damage public confidence.

Addressing Problem Employees in Government Settings

Effectively managing problem employees in government involves a balanced and structured approach:

  • Clear Communication

Initiating an open dialogue is critical. For instance, when a government employee's performance is lacking, a clear and direct conversation about specific issues and expectations can be the first step towards improvement.

  • Goal-Setting and Support

Setting achievable and measurable improvement goals is essential. For example, if an employee struggles with timely project completion, establishing clear deadlines and providing time management training can be effective. Consider holding regular meetings and performance reviews for government employees to help them get clarity on what is expected of them and stay on task. 

  • Regular Feedback and Monitoring

Continuous assessment of the employee's progress is vital. Regular performance reviews like is mentioned above, can help track improvements and identify ongoing issues. Feedback is vital for municipal employees to learn what they are doing well and where they need to make changes or improvements. Keeping workers in the loop is a huge benefit to them, as it helps them feel trusted and transparent about their performance, and it eliminates the need for ambiguity and frustration between employees and their supervisors.

Consider crafting a Government Continuity Strategy.  

  • Implementing Consequences

If an employee fails to improve despite support, implementing consequences in line with government policies is necessary. This might include formal warnings or reassignment to different roles, always ensuring adherence to labor laws and union rules. It is vital that employees understand there are expectations and rules that will be enforced. Similarly to how children respond well to structure and at times, appropriate disciplinary action to learn, employees should receive this same guidance as well. 

Learn about How to Embrace Citizen Feedback to Improve Government Operations here. 

Navigating Legal, Ethical, and Union Regulations in Government Employment Government

The complexity of managing disciplinary actions in government is heightened by strict labor laws and union regulations:

1. Rigorous Labor Laws

Government employees often have additional protections under labor laws. For example, the process of terminating a government employee can be far more complex and often requires specific legal procedures. Consider this when first encouraging employees or even when taking disciplinary action with employees who are underperforming in their roles. 

2. Need for Transparency

In disciplinary processes, especially in a healthy workplace environment, whether private sector or public sector- transparency is key. Ensuring that trust and accountability are paramount in your local government office requires action on behalf of the local government officials and employees. Actions taken against a problem employee in the government sector are often subject to public scrutiny, necessitating a transparent and fair approach. Be communicative with not only why the employee needs to face disciplinary action, but why the specific disciplinary action was taken to handle the situation. Being transparent and open with employees makes them feel more comfortable, trusting, and also have renewed confidence in their role. 

Consider hosting local public meetings or making government documents available on the government cloud to improve transparency with municipal workers. 

3. Professionalism and Employee Rights

Handling problem employees in the public sector also involves navigating legal, ethical, and public relations challenges. It is key that these considerations are handled with professionalism, and respect for the employee, regardless of how problematic they may act. It is crucial to balance firm management with respect for individual rights. Government managers must ensure that any disciplinary action is fair, unbiased, and legally compliant.

4. Political Pressures and Public Scrutiny

Government employees often work under the public eye, and their management can attract political and media attention. Maintaining a professional and ethical stance in all actions is essential to withstand external pressures and maintain public trust. Government employees take their positions to further the public well-being and working towards improving public life, so ensuring that the community knows this is vital. 

Be Sure To Mitigate Issues Caused By Problem Employees 

All government employees, even the most problematic ones need to be handled with respect and care. Sometimes, problem employees cause disruptions, silos, and frustrations in their municipal offices that can disturb the workflow of an entire department. Book a consultation with GovPilot today to learn more about helpful softwares that your office can use to help keep employees on track. 

Problem Employee FAQs

  • Why is it important to listen to employee feedback? 

Often employee feedback gives supervisors an insight to any issues or complaints long before the situation gets intense or boils over. Getting insight into the needs of workers helps supervisors provide the appropriate support to these employees. 

  • How can supervisors better support employees? 

Supervisors should ask for and receive feedback from employees about their roles, responsibilities, and thoughts before conflict occurs. Further, employers should provide regular performance reviews and meetings with employees to keep them informed on what is needed from them and how to perform best. 

Read On:

Tags: Government Efficiency, Digital Transformation, GovTech