5 things to think about when dealing with a difficult employee
2nd June 2020
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Let’s face it, we have all had them, we know other people who don’t or wont deal with them, and I personally have had to ‘assist’ more clients in dealing with them than anything else!

A difficult employee is not just a problem between one employee and another. If one person makes life difficult for the company, disorder and discontent can soon fester and become a major distraction for pretty much everyone...

If dealt with correctly, you and your team have the power to diffuse the situation and return the team to productivity and hopefully a happier place!

Unfortunately, dealing with difficult employees is an unavoidable part of most management jobs, and it’s best to address the matter sooner rather than later.

So, to help make things a little easier, we’ve put together a basic 5 stage plan, to help manage those more troublesome individuals.

1. Don’t ignore the problem

Don’t expect the problem to go away if you leave it. Ignoring it will only make the situation much worse. While most people try to avoid confrontation, you can’t allow an employee to undermine you, your team or any other part of your business.

Their bad attitude and actions can hurt the morale and culture of your organisation. A healthy, productive culture is the key to keeping employees engaged and moving your business forward.

If you’re seen to ignoring a problem employee, others will take note. Some of your best people, especially if they are taking on extra work to avoid interacting with that difficult employee, could start looking for a new employer or worse, think about managing the situation themselves.

Bad behaviour can spill over to clients as well. If an employee is argumentative and rude to their manager or supervisor, then they could take the same approach with your customers.

2. Don’t make it personal:

How you interact with the employee in question is critical to your success.

Once you’ve called a metting, create a professional and comfortable environment where the employee feels welcome to share what they are experiencing.

Don’t start by making negative comments. The last thing you want to do in a difficult conversation is make communication any worse than it already is.

Your goal is a relaxed, free-flowing discussion. Demonstrate that you care but you’re also there to discuss inappropriate behaviours or actions.

3. Don’t make assumptions

Don’t jump to conclusions. Try and have a bit of a discovery conversation. When you open up with the person, find out if they’re aware of their behaviour and its impact on the team. Try and get to the bottom of whats driving the given behaviour.

Once you’ve started talking and if they cant see an issue, tactfully offer specific examples illustrating whats happened and why it’s causing an issue. Be specific about what the results of the behaviour is doing to the people around them and to the business as a whole.

There may be issues they have been reluctant to discuss. Try and discover if there are any external, personal factors influencing their actions. The employee’s personal life may be in ruins, and they may not realise that it’s apparent at work.

If an employee needs assistance to get their personal life in order, provide them with any resources your company may have, this could be anything from some time to chat to someone independent o their home situation, it could be an external councillor or even some extra free time to help get them back on track. Obviously, it may be that everything externally of their work environment is fine, so don’t be too eager to lead them down a path that compromises your position as a company.

What you are trying to do is dig out the root cause of the issues you have raised, by doing this you can them hopefully produce a solution for all parties.

4. Suggest improvements

Once you determine the problem, then you can start to apply the appropriate tools to the situation.

First, ask them to articulate what support they need to improve their behaviour.

Remind the employee that they are a part of the organisations success. Any suggestions for improvement should be objective, measurable, realistic and helpful.

Typical solutions can include an employee assistance program, various training, coaching and other tools that might help the employee in areas where there may be gaps.

5. Follow through & measure your outputs

At this point, you’ve had the initial conversation, uncovered the root cause and implemented a plan. So, its now time to step back and monitor the situation

Establish measurable goals and time lines for completing them. How frequently you check on their progress should also stated as part of the process.

If the poor/bad behaviour continues, consider disciplinary action.

Depending on the situation, you could consider transferring the employee to a different team or business unit. However, a transfer isn’t something you want to make a habit of because that often doesn’t solve the underlying issue. In extreme or persistent cases, termination of the employee may be the necessary course of action.

About the Author

HR Support Sussex

Member since: 2nd June 2020

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