On December 12, 2021
Difficult employees are a significant headache for any small business owner or manager. However, the good news is that there are many ways to deal with difficult people.
Learn how to recognize when you’re dealing with a problematic employee, how to make sure you’re communicating well with them, and what you can do if things don’t go as planned.
Identify the problem
Knowing how to identify a difficult employee is a massive key to success. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know what it is, and the earlier you catch it, the better.
There are three main categories of difficult employees:
- The “High Maintenance” Employee
- The “Negative Nancy” Employee
- The “Always Complaining” Employee
If it’s not apparent, the “High Maintenance” employee requires a lot of extra attention and effort and is usually the cause of many problems in a fast-growing business.
A “Negative Nancy” often complains unnecessarily and generally has a negative attitude.
Finally, the “Always Complaining” employee is someone who’s constantly bringing problems to your attention and generally has a difficult time functioning without your help.
We should note that generalizing your employees on a day-by-day basis is a slippery slope towards destroying a carefully built company culture. The core foundation of any successful business is mutual respect between management and staff.
Is communication the issue?
Many different reasons might cause an employee to be difficult. Some employees may be in the wrong role or are having trouble with their coworkers.
However, communication is often a significant factor when dealing with difficult employees. If you can’t seem to make good communication happen between you and your employee, it’s time for some changes.
The first step in improving communication is to identify why there might be a miscommunication between you and the employee in question.
For example, maybe they’re not getting enough information about what’s expected of them on the job. Or perhaps they don’t understand your work culture. Once you’ve identified where the problem lies, you’ll know how to communicate better with them moving forward.
What are your goals?
Before you can deal with difficult employees, you need to figure out your goals.
Are you trying to build a better relationship? Get them to understand that their behavior is unacceptable? Or fire them?
Once you know your goals, it will be easier for you to determine which strategies will work best.
How do you want to resolve it?
The first thing to do is think about how you want the situation resolved.
There are five main paths to consider when dealing with a difficult employee:
- You can find a way for this person to work more effectively and no longer be such a burden on your team.
- You can make changes in how you communicate with them.
- You can move them to another department or position within your organization.
- You can fire them.
- You could try to ignore the problem and hope it will disappear.
What is your company culture?
To find the best way to deal with a difficult employee, you need to understand your company culture.
Think about your company’s values and what type of culture you want. For example, is your workplace very focused on deadlines? Or do people work independently?
A problematic employee might not be a good fit for your company if they don’t align with your company’s values or expectations.
It’s important to figure out if a difficult employee is the only one experiencing the issue or a cultural struggle within the business. Once you have this information, it will be easier to provide them with guidance and advice on better following your company’s expectations.
End on a good note
The key to successfully managing difficult employees is communication. It’s important that you’re able to clearly state your concerns and objectives without being too combative or confrontational.
Additionally, it’s critical that you listen well to the other person. This will allow you to fully understand their perspective and work together on a path forward.
If you’re struggling with this, it may be worth talking with someone in HR or using an outside consultant for additional support. Remember—managing difficult employees can’t (and shouldn’t) be done alone!