5 Ways to Deal with Difficult Employees

Being a manager has its perks and rewards, but it also means the possibility of dealing with difficult employees. However, the last thing you have to do is to ignore the problem because what should have been a small gash will aggravate into an open wound and fester.

However, managing difficult employees is not easy. It’s stressful and traumatic, especially if you feel powerless to do something about the issue. However, failing to address the problem will create ripples all throughout the office as other workers will feel frustrated over the seeming policy of management to tolerate the recalcitrant behaviors of the erring employee.

Then you really have a problem on your hands.

An efficient workplace is when everybody knows their role as well as the overarching goal of the organization. They will then do their respective tasks to contribute to the success of the business. It’s challenging when you are dealing with different individuals with their own personalities, backgrounds, mindsets, and even agenda.

Different Types of Difficult Employees

However, difficult employees can generally be classified into the following types:

1. The Stubborn Employee – This one will challenge every policy, direction, and instruction that you give. This employee also seems to have the talent to overestimate his capacity and take his colleagues too lightly. As such, you can expect this worker to be the one to demand a pay raise or engage in passive-aggressive behavior.

2. The Mr. Know It All – This employee has the most potential to do it his own way in direct defiance of your orders. That’s because he thinks that he knows better than anybody else, and his way is right.

3. The Rebel – The rebel just wants to do his own thing. In fact, he makes it a point to do the exact opposite of what you want.

4. The Gossip – The resident gossip in the office. If there’s a rumor involving your colleagues or even the postman who delivers your mail, trust the gossip to spread the unverified news. Oftentimes, their information is unwarranted.

5. The Chronically Absent and Tardy – With this worker, there’s always an excuse. Whether it’s the traffic, homework with the children, emergency, or a death in the family (all the relatives might probably be dead by now going by that excuse). This tardiness also extends to the project deadline. Trust this employee to miss out on that important deadline.

6. The Toxic Employee – There’s just a negative vibe surrounding this employee. He or she seems to seek out conflict. It seems like the day is not complete without some sort of drama.

5 Ways to Effectively Deal With Difficult Worker

1. Document Each Incident

It’s hard to go back-and-forth with difficult employees because they thrive on conflict. They know all the tricks in the book. When cornered, they can play the victim card as well as anybody and they can shed tears on command. You don’t have a chance if you try to corner them without any evidence to back your claims. This is why it’s important to have an extensive recording of each incident involving the particular employee. Take note of the time, date, and the case incident. Provide as much detail as possible. If you are mid-management, make sure you have enough ammunition before raising the matter with HR or with your supervisors. This way, when they are backed into the corner, they are really trapped. All mistakes will be recorded in the books. Even if they don’t face disciplinary action, at least they are aware that they are being monitored. Hopefully, they will change their behavior after that.

2. Come Up with a Course of Action

Don’t confront the erring worker with guns blazing. Don’t let your emotions drive your decisions and instead, know your employees. Some will want an aggressive and direct approach because they can quickly turn the tables on you. In these instances, a more indirect approach is necessary. Instead of confrontation, you can drop suggestions on how they can improve their behavior in the office. Involve your HR team since they have the experience to deal with these kinds of situations. Finally, when you are really ready, you can pull the employee aside and discuss the problem.

3. Suspend Judgment

It would be easy to pass on judgment on the employee because of their behavior. However, it’s important to defer your judgment up until you find out the cause of their bad behavior. Don’t approach the employee with the intention of picking a fight right away. Make sure you are not coming in with your emotions running high because that’s an ingredient of any argument.

However, it’s also important that the particular employee knows the consequences of not listening to the recommended actions to resolve the conflict in the workplace. The consequence should follow the protocols of your HR in dealing with their situations, whether it’s suspension or outright termination. In the latter case, you need to involve your legal team to make sure you are not violating any labor law in firing the employee. Hopefully, things don’t escalate to that stage.

4. Solicit their help in resolving the issue

One way of solving the problem is to solicit the help of a particular employee on how they can change their behavior. When you confront them with all the evidence, make sure they understand that you are not doing it to shame them. Your real goal is to improve the working environment for everybody. Maybe they are not aware that they are the cause of the toxicity. Making sure to get their commitment to change will do wonders for the office going forward. The reason for the difficulty can be frustration with work, problems with the family, anger after missing out on a promotion, a fight with the colleague, etc. Whatever the reason is, you work out with the employee to surface the problem.

5. Check Up on Them Every Now and Then

After you have gotten their promise to change, make sure that they know you are monitoring their actions. But it doesn’t have to be invasive. You can ask their colleagues with the promise of protecting their identities for feedback. Every now and then, you can approach the employee at their table and just talk about their respective tasks.

Have the difficult employees really changed, or they just made the promise to get you off their backs? In other instance, the monitoring should take a more direct approach. If they know they are being monitored then they might toe the line. On the downside, the constant need to always second-guess what they are doing may push them to be frustrated and their work productivity suffers. This is a balancing act.

Meanwhile, substance abuse may very well be the reason why an employee becomes difficult. According to EHS Today, drug use in the workplace has become commonplace. If substance abuse is the cause of the bad behavior of the difficult employee, you can convince them to go into rehab to address the core issue.

Nevertheless, you should also be cognizant of the fact that the difficult employee has no intention of mending his ways. In that regard, know when to let go. And that’s also an art in itself.


 Adam Durnham is a freelance blogger who often writes about mental health in a professional setting. He currently lives in Detroit, Michigan with his cat Salome. You can find most of his web content work on Sunshine Behavioral Health.


Never miss a story..!!

Grab the Latest Human Resource jobs, News, Tips, Updates & Trends..!!


See Our Blogcenter

Image 1 credit to rawpixel

Comments are closed.