How to Deal with a Difficult Employee

difficult-employees

There’s no such thing as the perfect employee. For that matter, there’s no such thing as the perfect employer. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. 

But if you have a difficult employee, whose behaviour is continually affecting the business, you have a problem. Whether the issue is related to work ethic, attitude, punctuality, or competence, the following checklist can help you handle even the most difficult employees.

Address problems early

The longer you leave a problem, the more difficult it will be for you to address it. Don’t silently stew for months if they are arriving twenty minutes late for work nearly every day. If you let the behaviour continue, they will simply assume that it is okay with you.

As soon as you notice a pattern or behaviour that is causing problems, address it with them immediately to nip it in the bud. Make sure they are clear on company policies, and then be consistent in enforcing those policies to prevent any relapse into old habits.

Listen to them

Before you can help a difficult employee who is displaying a problem, you need to fully understand the reason behind it. Ask them why they think the problem is occurring, and then listen carefully to their response. They may reveal an underlying problem that you previously knew nothing about.

For example, if they are missing deadlines, it is easy for a manager to assume that the employee is not managing their time well. But perhaps they are struggling with excess workload or have some other valid obstacle that is preventing them from performing as expected.

At the very least, listening to your employee can help them understand that you want to help them succeed. It’s a step to show that you’re trying to work with them, not against them.

Provide Actionable Feedback

Depending on the issue, employee may not realize they’re doing something wrong, or know how to fix it on their own. Provide constructive feedback that the employee can act upon. Set a date to follow up with the employee to review with them how well they followed through on your direction. Always do this in a one-on-one setting, not on the floor in front of other colleagues.

Document All Reprimands

Even if it’s the first time you’re addressing an issue with an employee, make sure you document all reprimands and write-ups from the start and keep them in a file for that employee. It sounds harsh, but if it ever gets to the point where you need to fire them, having the documents to prove that the discussions happened can facilitate the termination without risking legal trouble down the road.

Be Transparent About the Consequences

Although there’s nothing wrong with being diplomatic when you’re addressing problems with employees, make sure they understand what the consequences are if they fail to improve.  If it ever gets to the point where you need to fire an employee, it should come as no surprise to them.

Conclusion

Handling difficult employees is one of the toughest parts of being a manager. But if you do the best you can to rectify the issues and follow through on a predetermined process, you will always do what’s right for both the employee and the business.

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