Almost every manager will encounter an employee who is tough to handle. This can be especially distressing when this employee seemed to be easy to work with during the hiring process but later revealed their true colors. Even if the employee is performing their job well, the strained interpersonal relationships they cause can lead to heightened stress in the work environment.

Dealing With Difficult Employees

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One option is to terminate the worker, but this can present problems of its own. Strict labor laws can be challenging to work around unless the problem employee commits clear violations of certain rules and laws.

With adept management, it is possible to work with difficult staff members to iron out problems. Here are a few techniques to consider.

  • Don’t make the problem worse – Avoid doing anything unprofessional such as gossiping about or arguing with the employee.
  • Listen – A manager should listen to troubled employees because their behavior may have been triggered by an unresolved problem. Call the employee in for a discussion and try to figure out what is at the root of the issue. Sometimes, just hearing the employee out can positively affect his or her attitude.
  • Give clear, behavioral feedback – Many managers complain about poor workers without bothering to discuss the matter with the actual employee. Giving honest feedback takes courage, but it is an essential part of strong management.
  • Be consistent – Managers must follow through on their policies. If you declare that certain actions are against the rules, stick to that directive. Inconsistent management could be perceived as unfair, and this could contribute to an unhappy workforce.
  • Set consequences – A manager should make it clear to the affected staff member that they have a certain amount of time to turn their behavior around. They should also lay out specific actions that will be taken if expectations are not met.
  • Work through the company’s processes – If you need to let an employee go, you must do so in accordance with the company’s predetermined procedures. Start by consulting the human resources department. An ex-employee might take legal action if something was amiss in the termination proceedings.
  • Document – Any significant problems with workers should be properly notated. A manager cannot let go of an employee if there is no record of problematic conduct.

There are many different ways of handling challenging employees. Keep your conduct professional, communicate honestly, lay out specific expectations, and follow up. You may find that problems resolve more easily than you think they will.

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