HR Connection

Strategic Ways to Manage Difficult Employees

Posted by Jackie Edwards on Jul 25, 2017 9:38:56 AM

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Every company has difficult employees and low performers, but it's important for managers to understand how to deal with these workers effectively. If not managed properly, difficult employees undermine the concept of teamwork and negatively impact the whole team. Read on for our tips to deal with difficult employees. 

Identifying Difficult Employees

There are recurring types of difficult employees in each company; every manager has to deal with that one employee which is always negative, or perhaps has a hard time getting along with others, never completes his tasks on time or a million other reasons. Unfortunately, many managers spend a lot of time and energy on these employees, without ever being able to let them go. Here are a few different types of awkward employees you can encounter and tips on how to deal with them.


The Negative Type

This employee has a strong negativity bias and always sees the downside of everything, focusing on problems instead of solutions. Almost 100% of the time they are guaranteed to see the cup half empty and are simply unable to come up with a way to fix it. 

Schedule a talk with this person and discuss how their negativity is affecting the team, how it has affected past results and how it's influencing potential results. Remember to always be as positive as you can in interacting with them, as if your team sees you being negatively affected, they will follow. Ask this person to make three positive comments or offer constructive solutions for every negative comment they make from that moment on. 


The Drama Queen

This individual thrives on drama, conflict and confrontation, and generally loves to make a huge deal out of tiny issues. Drama queens also suffer from negativity bias, but they exasperate it until it's not even realistic. 

Avoid rising to the bait and, once again, talk to your employee and try to understand what's wrong. Drama queens tend to suffer from low self esteem issues and need to feel appreciated and valued. They tend to shed negative light on others to draw attention to themselves. Let the drama queen know that they are a respected and valued member of the team, and you always recognize their hard work, even though you don't always let them know. Request them to bring concerns to you rather than spreading rumors around the office. 


Mr. Einstein

This person thinks they're the smartest in the room, and tends to put down ideas by other team members. Mr. Einstein is self-absorbed and, although he often has good ideas, is appalling at interacting with others. 

It can be difficult to have a productive conversation with this employee, as a big ego can stop him from truly appreciating your honest feedback and concerns. Sit down with them and explore all the ways in which their intelligence impacts the team, both negatively and positively. Have them do a solo analysis and draw their own conclusions. A solution chosen by Mr. Einstein himself will be more effective as they will automatically be convinced that it's the best one for them and for the team. 


The Victim

Things just seem to happen or randomly go wrong for this employee, who also happens to never be accountable. 

By clearly sitting down with this individual and defining accountability, you will make it much harder for this person to get out of doing their tasks and it won't be possible for them to blame potential problems or issues on others. Be really clear about what should be done and how, and also clearly define deadlines.


Understand the Person Behind the Employee

Here's the thing about difficult employees: they aren't just employees. They're people. 

Usually, there are reasons behind difficult behavior. Often these people want to be liked, need to be noticed and are very hard on themselves, tending to dwell on past mistakes. Sometimes they can also be excessively sensitive and emotional. 

In any case, always sit down and talk to your employees, no matter how difficult they may be. By looking at them as people and trying to understand the reasons behind their actions, you will build trust.

Always give honest feedback, as some employees may not even be conscious about their behavior. Ultimately, they will respect your honesty and humanity and will be much more willing to make a change. 

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Now working as a writer, Jackie started her career in HR, but after becoming a mom refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she's not writing, she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities and also has a menagerie of pets to look after.

Topics: Blogs, Human Resources, Employees, communication, HR

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