In every manager’s career there will be at least one employee who could be categorised as “difficult.” That could be someone who isn’t a team player, who is struggling in productivity terms or who just doesn’t quite do what is expected of them. Handling difficult employees is a skill that every manager has to learn to avoid situations that escalate into something much more significant than they need to be. There are some simple ways to deal with someone who is not doing well.
Ask them what’s happening
If you’re dealing with a difficult employee the temptation may be to simply write them off as useless. You might always assume that they will perform ineffectively or interact badly – and often, as a result, they continue to do so. That’s why it’s so important to sit down and ask employees who are being difficult what’s going on. There could be any number of reasons why someone is behaving as they are but the only way to help them move on from it is to find out what’s behind it.
Provide feedback and keep records
It’s important to take a structured approach to difficult employees. That means keeping records of issues – and of progress – so that you have something to refer back to, whether that’s during discussions with the employee or if a situation arises where you have to take action against them. Regular feedback is crucial too, as it is an opportunity to give an employee the chance to improve by highlighting issues and then providing proactive, positive steps to take towards change.
Set standards – and stick to them
Employees need to understand what’s required of them and that means taking a consistent approach to standards of performance and behaviour. If timeliness is crucial, for example, then don’t make exceptions for some people and not others. What you do, as opposed to what you say, will be incredibly important here. It’s also key to show difficult employees that there are consequences to certain actions. Always provide a warning of consequences – i.e. if behaviour doesn’t improve by a specific date then the consequences will kick in – and if you’ve mentioned consequences, make sure you follow through on them.
Manage yourself during the process
If an employee has upset you, made your morning difficult or caused a problem that is affecting your day-to-day experience it can be tempting to start complaining about them to anyone who will listen. However, it’s far better to avoid talking them down to others and work on boosting your own self confidence and esteem instead. Stick to the processes your company has for handling difficult employees and don’t allow yourself to get overly emotional or upset.
Take the hard decisions if you have to
It’s not easy to fire someone but if it’s obvious that this is the only real solution to the current situation then it’s better to step up and tackle it, rather than let things fester.
Every manager can learn how to handle challenging employees – our Managing Difficult Staffing Situations course is a great place to start.