How do Personal Problems Manifest in the Professional Workplace?

 Generally lower job performance

  • Difficulty in recalling instructions, conversations, details, etc.
  • Increasing difficulty in handling complex assignments/cases
  • Difficulty in recalling own mistakes
  • Assignments/procedures take more time
  • Mistakes due to inattention, poor judgment, lack of knowledge, lack of skill
  • Complaints from co-workers, patients, and/or clients


  • Use of unauthorized leave
  • Excessive sick leave
  • Frequent absences at the beginning or end of the work week
  • Excessive tardiness, especially at the beginning of the work week or in returning from lunch and/or breaks

On the job absenteeism

  • Frequent absence from assigned work area
  • Failure to respond to phone calls, pages, or emails
  • Frequent trips to water fountain or bathroom
  • Long coffee breaks
  • Malingering

High accident rate - both on and off the job

Erratic work patterns - alternate periods of very high and very low productivity

Poor work relationships

  • Conflicts with staff and colleagues
  • Overreacts to real or imagined criticism
  • Wide swings in mood
  • Borrows money from co-workers
  • Argumentative, belligerent, insubordinate behavior
  • Unreasonable resentments
  • Begins to avoid associates
  • Poor boundaries with staff, colleagues, or clients
  • Frequent inappropriate remarks or off-color humor with staff, colleagues, or clients

Indicators of poor performance by supervisors/managers

  • Begins to let performance standards slip
  • Begins to issue conflicting instructions to subordinates
  • Uses employees' time and skills inefficiently
  • Submits incomplete records and data
  • Budgets may begin to be mismanaged
  • Schedules fail to be coordinated
  • The supervisor's/manager's department fails to deliver proper service
  • Does not deal with problem employees
  • Increased conflict among department employees

In healthcare settings audits of professional practice reveal the following types of issues

  • Inaccurate, late, or incomplete documentation
  • If drugs are administered, actual patient responses don't match the expected patient responses relative to the dosages
  • Patient problems and poor outcomes increase


How Should Colleagues or Supervisors Respond to Concerns About an Employee or a Colleague?

Objectively observe and document problematic behavior.

Maintain appropriate professional boundaries.

  • Avoid diagnosing or interpreting the meaning of the behavior.
  • Follow your organization's disciplinary policies and procedures.  Consult with your Human Resources Department as needed.
  • Set, communicate, and enforce appropriate performance/behavioral expectations.
  • Offer an appropriate referral (i.e. to your EAP) to help the individual meet performance/behavioral expectations.
  • Set, communicate, and enforce appropriate consequences for not meeting performance/behavioral expectations.
  • Obtain consultation, if needed, about how to conduct a constructive confrontation.

If dangerous behavior is observed you must act appropriately to protect the public safety. 

  • Obtain emergency assistance if necessary.
  • Act in accordance with your oranization's policies and procedures, your code of ethics, and your legal obligations. 
  • Consult with a colleague, supervisor, or other knowledgeable professional if you are unsure how to proceed.

Recognize that failing to address problematic behavior ultimately does more harm than good.