I am sure we have all worked with at least one difficult employee in our careers. Leaders spend a lot of time dealing with them and the ongoing issues they create. They can be a drain on your time and mind. Also, how many of you would agree the second worst thing to a difficult employee is a previous manager who failed to do something about this problem employee and passed them on to you. This is being a coward.
David G. Javitch offers us some basic tools to deal with difficult employees. I hope they help.
5 Steps to Deal with Difficult Employees
By Dr. David G. Javitch|June 1, 2009
Difficult people present no problem if we pass them on the street, in the supermarket or in a building lobby. Nevertheless, when we have to work with them difficult people can become major irritants.
It seems that some people are just born to be difficult. We have all worked with them and most of us dislike them. Difficult people are easy to recognize–they show up late, leave early, don’t turn their work in on time and have an excuse for every failing.
Wait, there’s more. These difficult people harass you and others, ask too many self-explanatory questions, neglect details, distract you and repeatedly challenge you and others. Even worse, when they interact with customers, vendors and people lower than them on the corporate hierarchy, they can be grouchy, impolite, condescending, uninformed, misleading, inappropriate or simply wrong. Do you know anyone like this?
Naturally, no one wants to work with difficult people. When dealing with problematic employees, productivity decreases, frustrations rise, morale goes down and customers and vendors get upset.
How to Handle Them
1. Don’t ignore the problem. Assuming that the employee provides value to the company and possesses redeeming qualities, there are ways to deal with difficult employees. Most often, managers will simply ignore problematic staffers. Managers who live by this rule hope the problem will just go away; that these people will somehow turn themselves around or stop being troublesome. Ignoring the situation is the wrong solution to what could likely become a progressive problem.
2. Intervene as soon as possible. It is important to take action as soon as the negative behavior pattern becomes evident–when left untouched, this problem will only escalate.
Occasionally, the difficult employee has no idea that his behavior is a problem or that others react negatively to his actions. This is because most people tend to put up with the annoying behavior and “go along to get along.” At the same time, some employees just consider it a “job frustration.” Just like some managers, employees want to be liked by colleagues and subordinates and are therefore reluctant to speak up when a problem arises.
Ultimately, it is the manager’s responsibility to take the appropriate action to correct the problem. Whether the concern exists due to the employee’s lack of knowledge of the issue, lack of feedback or projecting the difficulty onto someone else, the manager has the responsibility of addressing and turning around the predicament. The manager needs to gather information from employees to discern the extent of the problem and personally observe the employee interacting with customers or vendors.
3. Research the problem personally. Armed with accurate data and examples, the manager needs to then take this person into a conference room or office–away from others–and calmly address the issue. To begin, the manager needs to ask the employee if he is aware of any ongoing issues to determine if the difficult person is aware of the problems.
If the employee is “unaware,” the manager needs to describe the unacceptable behavior. The employee might interrupt to disagree or deny the existence of any issues. Nevertheless, the manager needs to continue by giving clear examples of the unwanted behavior.