How to Deal with a Difficult Employee and Succeed in 2022

It is never easy to deal with difficult employees. Throughout your career, you will most likely encounter one. You may have to deal with difficult people because of the growth in remote work and hybrid remote.

This can affect your motivation, energy, focus, and the rest of your team. It is crucial that you immediately address any problems.

It doesn’t matter if you own a small, Fortune 500, or international business; managing difficult employees quickly will help you save time, increase productivity, and improve the work environment.

Let’s look at how difficult employee looks and how to deal with them.

What is a difficult employee?

Organizations can have a difficult time with employees who are difficult to manage. They can often display bad behaviour and become toxic to their colleagues.

Let’s take a look at some examples of employee behaviour that is difficult to manage:

Undermine your authority

Undermining authority is one of the most obvious indicators of an employee’s bad behaviour. This happens when an employee directly or indirectly disregards the chain of command within the company.

For example, the problem employee might refuse to comply with their supervisor’s orders. You might even hear them say, “You’re not my boss!”

Today’s companies are often “flat”, so there is no traditional hierarchy. There is, however, some level of authority or rank that can be used to hold people accountable.

Bad attitude

Bad attitude refers to employees who lack urgency, optimism, or any other form of negativity. Bad attitudes can quickly become a performance problem.

Imagine an employee who is constantly negative to coworkers during the day. Their manager asks them to join a team meeting. They sigh and then move slowly to the conference room.

This kind of behaviour is detrimental to the individual and affects everyone around them. It can lead to lower productivity.

Toxic behaviour

Toxic behaviour can be worse than just a negative attitude. Toxic behaviour can lead to negative words, actions, or even worse outcomes for everyone involved.

This employee spreads the virus to everyone around them, and it can take time to get rid of their bad behaviour.

Unnecessary conflict is an example of toxic behaviour. Imagine a salesperson constantly blaming the marketing department for their quality leads.

A toxic person might resort to name-calling, gas-lighting, and language. They avoid having reasonable conversations with others or seeking a solution.

Not completing work

It is exactly what it sounds like. The employee doesn’t complete their work.

This could mean that you have a poor performer on your payroll who drains company resources and provides no return.

Business owners need to understand how such a difficult employee works. An employee may fail to complete an obvious task, such as creating a mockup for a logo.

This is why ZoomShift time-tracking software, such as ZoomShift, is so useful. It is possible to see how many hours employees work or are not working.

How to manage a difficult employee

You now know what it takes to make a hard employee and what traits they possess. These are just the beginning.

You must also learn how to deal with the employee and solve the problem. Let’s now discuss key strategies for managing employees with problems in any workplace.

Identify the Root Cause

It would help if you got to the root of the problem. Is the employee having problems with their personal lives? Perhaps they have problems with their coworkers and feel ignored by human resources.

You might chat with a colleague and discover that they feel underpaid. It is unclear if they are, but you now have the problem in plain sight. You can begin to solve it.

The root cause could be simpler. Maybe they work in the mornings but prefer to work at night.

You can use shift-switching software to allow your employees to trade time and have a schedule that suits their needs.

Critique Behavior

Employees need to be listened to and given feedback about the behaviour they display. Only then will you be able to get on the same page and come up with solutions such as an employee assistance program or improvement plans.

Be sure to focus your criticism on the person and not their identity.

Don’t say, “Charlie, you are slow.” What can we do to make your work more efficient?

Make sure to give clear instructions.

Don’t leave anything to chance. Clear instructions can cause poor employee performance. This can lead to difficult conversations. However, it would help if you stopped the negative effects from continuing by clearly describing each step of your job instructions.

Take, for example, the differences between these instructions for a barista who opens a coffee shop in the morning.

Version A:

  • Lock the doors
  • Install the espresso machine
  • Clear the tables

Version B:

  • To unlock the front door, use key #4 (pictured on page 11 of this manual).
  • Use a clean, yellow towel to wipe down the espresso machine, beginning with the nozzle.
  • Spray the “ESP” cleaning solution on the machine.

You can see the differences in the details between the two sets. For an employee unfamiliar with the subject matter, what may seem like common sense to you might be foreign. Don’t give too many details.

Set Clear Expectations

Clear instructions are not enough. You also need to set clear expectations. These expectations should be the outcome of employees’ efforts.

You might train customer service staff to respond to an email question in detail. But, it is important to set clear expectations for performance indicators.

Clear expectations will help you and your team perform well while paying attention to those who are not up to the challenge.

You might expect the following from customer service positions:

  • All inquiries answered within 24 hours
  • Don’t close a conversation until a customer has resolved their problem.
  • At least 4 stars and above for satisfaction

These will help you hold your team responsible for their results and not be manipulated by emotions or favouritism.

Provide Clear Consequences

The bottom line, you should have clear consequences for difficult employees. Employees will be more inclined to take advantage of your leniency if there are no disciplinary actions for poor performance or attitude. Your HR department can help you create a plan.

Sometimes, difficult team members act out because they feel invincible. Maybe they didn’t know that consequences were available for their actions in the past, whether it was in your company or another.

You should also clearly describe what happens if an employee causes more problems. If John shows up late for work, he will be on unpaid leave. He will be fired if it happens again.

Only you will decide what consequences are appropriate. The most important thing is to document all disciplinary actions. This will usually be enough to correct the behaviour.

We are open to your feedback.

Accepting feedback should be a part of your company culture. This will ensure employees can come to you with any issues.

This policy of open feedback can even be used to address personal problems. An example: A difficult employee might come out and say they are having problems at home with their families.

You can work together to find a solution, such as a few weeks or days to resolve their issues. They are then able to return to work feeling ready.

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