How to Handle Difficult Employees

When it comes to difficult employees, address the issue promptly to prevent it from getting worse. Consider these approaches before and after a problem occurs.

Dealing with difficult employees can come with running a business. While it may be tempting to ignore these problems and hope that they will resolve themselves, without intervention they can — and often do — get worse. To help you navigate tough situations, here are some example employee challenges and guidelines to help employees get back on track.

potential problems

#1: The silent quitter

They notice a change in the quality of their work and a general indifference to their work. The employee seems to be doing only what is necessary to keep their job. This can lead to other employees having to do additional work and negatively affect teamwork.

#2: The responsibility pusher

Employees who refuse to take responsibility when things go wrong, either blame others or make excuses can be problematic. Taking responsibility for mistakes is an essential part of making sure they don’t happen again.

#3: The Star

They can be very productive, but they can also show up late for meetings, not apologize when they finally get there, and then stare at their phone throughout the meeting. Ignoring these issues because the employee is a “star” can set a bad example and lead to problems later.

#4: The downside

This employee is constantly complaining and constantly expressing pessimism about new initiatives. While it’s important to respect personality differences and recognize challenges, an overly negative attitude can spill over into other employees and undermine organizational goals.

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#5: The know-it-all

This employee has done and seen everything, at least from their point of view. They are quick to dismiss other people’s ideas, interrupt others in meetings, and tend to “explain” things that are outside their area of ​​expertise. These types of employees can discourage other employees from voicing new ideas and can negatively impact collaboration.

How to tackle employee challenges

Before a problem occurs:

To reduce the likelihood of encountering difficulties:

  • Lead by example. Don’t let your leaders be the “difficult ones”. Make sure you hold leaders accountable for demonstrating the behavior expected of them.
  • Communicate expectations clearly. Communicate rules and procedures in the workplace so employees know exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect from the company. It has proven useful to keep an employee handbook for this purpose. Also, confirm expectations when setting performance goals and provide regular feedback to employees.
  • Set SMART goals. Involve the employee in the goal setting process as much as possible. Goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. By involving the team member in setting goals, you can help them understand the importance of their role and how it impacts business initiatives.
  • promote inclusion. Ensure that your practices and decisions are free from bias, that employees are paid fairly, that you encourage employees to share ideas and feedback, and that you take all complaints seriously. Educate supervisors on all workplace policies and how to consistently manage and enforce them. During staff meetings, intervene tactfully if an employee takes over the discussion, brings up an irrelevant topic, fires colleagues, is otherwise rude, or tries to value someone else’s idea.
  • motivate employees. Engaged and motivated employees usually cause fewer problems. To foster an engaged workforce, consider the following:
    • Employee Recognition Programs
    • Offer flexible working hours arrangements
    • Give employees autonomy in completing tasks
    • provide career opportunities
    • Providing challenging work assignments and utilizing employees’ skills and knowledge
  • Prepare employees for change. Inform employees early on about upcoming changes. Take the time to explain the reasons for each change and how a new process can positively impact the employee’s work environment.
  • Improve teamwork. While some conflicts in the workplace are inevitable, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of it becoming a problem. To reduce conflict and encourage collaboration between team members, clarify rules and expectations, clearly define roles and facilitate team building activities.
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After a problem occurs:

Here are some ways employers can address difficult employees diplomatically and effectively:

  • Meet with the employee. If an employee is not meeting their performance or behavior expectations, or is in violation of Company policies, address the situation immediately. Don’t wait until the annual performance review. Meet privately with the employee, express your appreciation for their contributions, and be direct. Let them know you’ve noticed issues with their performance and/or attitude and provide examples. Explain that you are trying to help the employee improve and give them an opportunity to respond. Confirm that the employee fully understands the improvement expectations and have them confirm the conversation in writing.
  • Document the discussion. Document the interview, including the date and content of the interview, and keep it in the employee’s personnel file.
  • Follow up. Contact the staff member to see how they are doing. If their performance/conduct has not improved, further disciplinary action may be necessary.

Note: During the meeting, the employee may disclose information that may trigger certain obligations. For example:

  • If the employee discloses that the reason for their change in behavior or performance is that they have been the victim of sexual harassment, the employer should promptly initiate an investigation into the allegations.
  • If the employee discloses that they have a disability, the employer may be required to make reasonable accommodations for the employee.
  • If they show symptoms of burnout, offer the company resources that can help, such as For example, an Employee Assistance Program and help them develop a plan for improvement.
  • And if they’re having trouble working with another employee, guide them through resolving workplace disagreements.
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Learn more

3 Ways Collaboration Between Employees Improves Engagement

This article was originally published as ADP HR Tip of the Week, a notice prepared for ADP’s small business clients.

Keywords: leadership corporate culture small business HR articles people management and growth business owners employee engagement and productivity turnover and retention


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