How To Manage Difficult Employees
How To Manage Difficult Employees Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Every manager knows at least one employee that they consider difficult to work with. Even when they look like they're trying their best, the employee might be a trouble maker, a terrible team player, or simply living by the code that "rules are meant to be broken." The unfortunate thing, however, is that you can't fire them just because they're annoying.

So, how do you manage a difficult employee?


Stop Ignoring the Problem

Problems don't go away when you ignore them. And if you think an employee is difficult, it's better to confront them about it. Problematic employees can wreak havoc at your workplace and spoil the mood for their hard-working co-workers.

When an employee is difficult, show interest by trying to understand the possible causes and if possible, solve the issues. If the employee is committed to the organization, they might change after realizing that their troubles are heard.

Give Constructive Feedback

Sometimes, confronting an employee directly can seem like a heavy task. But if you want to see real change around the office, giving feedback -- no matter how tough, is necessary. Don't go around the office complaining about how frustrated you are with them. That won't solve anything.

Instead, approach them privately and provide specific advice. Make sure you emphasize that your goal is to help them grow within the company and their role. Great managers can make criticism sound like a suggestion, and to the employee, candid talk can inspire change.

Document Every Frustration

The first step in the problem-solving process is to put the issue down in writing. In a court of law, documents provide meaningful evidence. Likewise, in the workplace, recording bad behavior can protect you from a manipulative employee or a potential lawsuit.

With accurate records, you can provide the employee with proof of their behavioral patterns. And if you decide to fire them, you can easily justify your decision.

Stay Consistent With Everyone

Being a leader in the workplace requires consistency. So if you announce that some type of behavior is not okay, don't backpedal later. Employees are always on the lookout for behavior that can be tolerated and if you need to discourage difficult behavior, set limits that everyone recognizes.

If you hate it when work is turned in late, make sure every employee that turns in a project late understands that you won't tolerate it if it happens again. That difficult employee should realize that there are no exceptions to the rule.

Set Appropriate Penalties

After trying everything within your power to correct an unmanageable employee, make sure they understand that there are real consequences for their behavior. Institute a substantive form of discipline for your team when they break the rules you have set for your workplace.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you could try demoting them or reassigning them to a new project. While you want to create a motivating environment, sometimes negative reinforcement is a stronger motivator than positive.


Remember Your End Goal

Dealing with a difficult employee is one of the toughest challenges a manager can face. But, no matter how tough that trouble maker seems, you should never leave them to poison the workplace with their bad energy. While every situation is different, don't let your team members take advantage of your weaknesses. Make sure to approach them with a cool mind and a tough resolve.

Don't forget that, at the end of the day, you need to do what's best for the company. If you have someone in your office doing things that will jeopardize your team's productivity, their work environment, or the company's future, it's your responsibility to make changes.

Criticizing an employee is never easy, but every problem has a solution. Don't think that it's you versus them; imagine that it's you and them versus the problem. In the end, you can save yourself and other employees from headaches and frustration by handling it the right way.