Employees come in all different types. Some are bubbly, some are efficient, some are mild-mannered. From different personalities to different skill sets and interests, managing a team of people – never mind overseeing a whole organization full of them – can be tricky. What does it mean when an employee is ‘difficult’? How do you handle difficult employees?
Difficult employees come in just as many variations as other employees, but some characteristics are often consistent in those deemed “difficult.” Passive aggressive behavior, lying, disrespect, poor communication, missed deadlines and inappropriate anger, aggression or other comments are all signs an employee may be difficult to guide, get results from or constructively work with. This kind of behavior can reduce the quality of output and work and also bring down team morale. No one is perfect, but no one wants to consistently work with someone hostile, negative or toxic day after day.
Here’s how to handle it.
- Ask questions, then listen: Sometimes employees are difficult simply because they feel undervalued, unseen or misunderstood. Having open lines of communication with employees can help them feel more connected and reduce negative attitudes and behavior. Managers who have regular check-ins with employees have the opportunity to praise what’s being done well, ask for improvement in other place, and allows the employee to list any problems or struggles they’re experiencing, which makes everyone feel more like they’re on the same team.
- Give clear, measurable feedback: If you’ve identified a problem in performance or behavior, make sure you don’t give vague feedback like “let’s try to get it done sooner next time.” It’s better to give results-oriented instruction like, “I need to see a 600-word first draft of this in five days.” It’s also important to outline potential consequences should direction not be followed.
- Keep records and documents: Should you need to escalate your problem employee to some kind of discipline, from suspension to firing, make sure you have the documentation to back up your decision. Emails you’ve sent about expectations and formal warnings about behavior are good ways to start documenting issues.
Difficult employees don’t have to become impossible employees. Leaders who are clear and consistent help keep employees accountable to themselves, their co-workers and the company.
If you’re looking for a new hire, that doesn’t have to be difficult either. We make it easy to connect you with the enthusiastic, qualified talent your company needs. Call us today.