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10 Most Common Problems in the Workplace

And how to fix them

My recent column addressed the importance of employee development and identified the 10 most common problems in the work environment that hinder that development and a company’s overall success. This column presents those 10 problems and provides solutions to each.

1. Inadequate job descriptions

A well-written job description eliminates misunderstandings between management and employees and becomes the very foundation of performance reviews, creating a baseline of measurement. Job descriptions serve as a documented record of what an employee should accomplish in their position and what activities they must perform well to meet those objectives. This should be treated as an employment contract, creating the tool to measure job performance. Make sure that job description documents are provided to all employees and that they are utilized regularly.

2. Lack of training

Nothing has become more apparent in today’s workplace than the lack of employee training. Some companies merely throw new employees onto the front line, forcing them to learn on their own through trial and error. Others provide formal training, but in the wrong manner. Both are equally detrimental to corporate performance.

Formal training is a must. Effective training must directly pertain to the employee’s job description. It should address how an employee can best accomplish position objectives and complete supporting activities. Additionally, training must include accountability. Every skill taught must be paired with performance accountability, which requires management to measure each employee’s progress. In many cases, training classes never receive another mention from management after they’re completed, and, as a result, nothing ever changes. The final aspect of effective training is using the right trainer. All too often, human resource people teach classes. These are individuals who have read the books but don’t have practical experience on the subject they are to teach. Great teachers have walked their talk.

3. Ineffective job performance reviews

In an ineffective performance review, the boss often does all the talking, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or doesn’t have all the information. They are often only completing the review because they have to.

To put performance reviews back on track, management must first recognize the stakes. The few hours spent discussing an employee’s performance will affect what the employee thinks and does for the next full six months to a year. A lot of homework and heart needs to be put into reviews. Managers should make sure to use the employee’s job description and review their performance in the context of a discussion. The manager should ask the employee to share their perspectives on each subject first. And, the manager should first focus on performance strengths before addressing areas that need improvement.

A successful performance review ends with agreement between the employee and manager, and with a jointly designed set of performance objectives going forward. This leaves the employee with a sincere vote of confidence.

4. Lack of two-way communication

Great managers know how to do a great job and great leaders know how to get employees to do a great job. Regular two-way communication lies at the very foundation of what great leaders deliver. When employees know what a manager knows, it creates an attitude and behavior of company ownership that leads to excellent performance. Management should make a regular concerted effort in communicating with all employees through as many mediums as possible.

5. Ineffective employee recognition

It’s nice to have awards and contests at work, but what counts most is the daily thank you. This turns employee recognition from a project into a culture. This takes a concerted effort by management and an understanding that there is always something positive that can be said to each employee each day.

6. Lack of job-related accountability

What irks great employees more than anything is witnessing poor performing employees being allowed to continue on being poor performing employees. This can lead to corporate financial failure, as good employees either leave or shrink down to being equally as poor as the rest. As important as it is to recognize great employee performances, the job performance review process provides the means to enforce accountabilities. Follow proper training and corrective action, and if employees fail to measure up, terminate employment. Too many employers are being held hostage by poor performing employees, when in fact they would be miles ahead if they were rid of them.

7. Improper or excessive company policies

All companies must have policies that all employees follow. However, a company should strive to have as few policies as possible. One of the most recent discoveries is that a business environment that provides freedom and the invitation to be creative always leads to the highest performing employees. Too many policies stifle employee performance.

8. Lack of equipment and facilities

Management must make sure to pay attention to the type and condition of equipment that is being utilized by the employees. Capital expenditures on equipment and facilities are a very high percentage of operation expenses. Know what is needed, furnish it and then maintain it. And, make sure employees participate all the way. Safety goes up, right along with morale.

9. Lack of charitable community involvement

Charitable community involvement has proven to be a powerful element of employee development. Employers should support employees’ opportunity to spend, for example, one day per quarter serving a charitable organization within the community and paying them for doing so. Businesses that commit to this culture earn employees who have a much higher appreciation for their jobs and company.

10. A lousy manager

A positive business environment includes the presence of managers who are good role models for employees. Measure success in this area by seeking evaluations from employees. It is key for management to ask how they’re doing.


Carl Tompkins headshot

Carl Tompkins

Carl Tompkins is national flat glass sales manager for Sika Corp.,, and the author of the book “Winning at Business.” He can be reached at