What are the Most Common Problems in the Workplace? 

problems at work

Problems between colleagues are, unfortunately, common in the workplace. We spend nearly one third of our adult lives at work, and workplace problems can be a source of stress for many people, and potentially, a significant cost to your organisation. 

So what are some common workplace problems?

  • Conflict with others
  • Communication problem
  • Gossip
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Low motivation and job satisfaction
  • Performance issues
  • Unsuitability for job

Solving problems

Understandably, it is impossible to have a workplace where everyone fits and works together perfectly without some form of conflict. This is why the role of team leader or manager is often so essential. Solving problems involves differentiating between employee problems that are minor, and those which are more serious. One requires a one to one discussion, the other – a possible disciplinary procedure. Vitally, managers must have the maturity and understanding, to take emotion, hearsay, personal opinion and bias out of the matter. This allows you to deal with the facts of the situation in an ordered and systematic way.

Managers should listen, engage and respond appropriately. Resolving issues early prevents concerns and problems from spiralling out of control and becoming serious. However, in some cases the issue may be too big to solve in this way and then a disciplinary procedure is necessary.


Dealing with minor problems

If the issue is minor then the following steps can be useful to follow:

  1. Awareness of the problem. This should be the first stage of discussions; establishing the facts. Often employees can be unaware that they are causing a problem. Once the employee is aware of how their behaviour is having a negative impact, this may be enough for them to change or stop it.  
  2. Reinforce expectations. Next, outline what you expect. Tell the employee specifically how they can improve their performance. Give examples and make it clear that you are serious and the changes need to happen immediately. 
  3. Consequences. Discuss the possible consequences, such as disciplinary procedures, which may occur if the situation does not change. 
  4. Action plan. Consider creating an action plan to support the employee. Include ways they will meet expectations and improve their performance. Put it in writing and agree upon it together. 
  5. Follow up. Ensure you discuss the issue again. Acknowledge any changes and improvements made. Discuss consequences again.

Disciplinary Procedures

If a member of staff has repeatedly failed to carry out their job appropriately and have failed to improve unacceptable behaviour or performance, they will face disciplinary action.

A disciplinary procedure will follow a pattern of steps.


Verbal warning

You must arrange a meeting to give a verbal warning. The employee may bring a colleague or union representative. Focus the meeting on a discussion of the problem and provide an opportunity for the employee to respond and explain their actions. Follow this up with a letter, with details of improvements required and timescales. Also state clearly within the letter, failure to do so will escalate the matter to stage 2. 


Written warning

Before the written warning the employee should be invited to another meeting and given the opportunity to respond. At this stage the written warning will then be handed over to the employee.


Final warning

If the agreed improvement is not made a final warning should be sent, stating that improvement must be made or the employee will be dismissed. 



If improvement still does not take place, dismissal is the only remaining option. This should take place at a meeting and senior management should invite the employee and their representative, if they have one. The employee should be given 14 days to appeal the decision and ideally, should also be given a letter confirming their dismissal.

In the case of gross or serious misconduct, senior management are able to go straight to stage 4 or 5. 



Engage in Learning’s Performance Management Pathway courses will introduce you to ways to develop a motivated, high performance workforce and how to set achievable expectations. The Solving Performance Problems module will help you learn how to constructively respond to difficult situations.

Our Solving Performance Problems course can be found here.