Dealing with Difficult Employees: 5 Tips to Help!

It’s sad but true.human resource conflict management

One difficult employee can infect the entire company with problems.

And unfortunately, the most common way managers handle problem employees is to avoid them as much as possible. It’s uncomfortable, vulnerable, and even a little scary to confront an employee that is not meeting expectations or is causing drama in the office.

But it’s necessary to manage the problem employees as much as the rest and it’s always better to do so sooner rather than later.

Don’t let the tension grow too thick!

Try these 5 tips for dealing with difficult employees:


Don’t Ignore Your Employee

Most people tend to be avoiders in times of conflict. However, as a manager, you must be an example of healthy conflict management to the rest of the company. Ignoring obvious issues is not the way to handle things. Schedule time to meet with your employee. Sometimes meeting offsite can defuse the situation.

Listen to Your Employee

Before telling your employee all the reasons they are a problem, listen. Ask questions about how they feel about their performance, if they have any concerns, if there are any resources they might need. Sometimes feelings are raw and the employee needs to know that they are heard before they are willing to share their honest thoughts or receive criticism.

Talk to Your Employee

Make sure to present your concerns in a non-defensive, non-personal, yet straightforward way. Don’t be afraid to be frank, yet respectful. A good rule of thumb when having difficult conversations is to use constructive feedback – “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Use facts and examples to describe what they are doing, why it’s unacceptable, and what the expectations are.

Make a Plan with Your Employee

After the employee has a clear understanding of your expectations as a manager, discuss next steps. What will you do, what will they do, how will progress be tracked, and what are the consequences if goals are not met. It’s very important to make sure your employee is clear on your expectations moving forward.

Write Everything Down!

Once you begin dealing with a difficult employee, it’s important to keep accurate records of conversations, interactions, emails, texts, etc. in the case that HR needs to get involved. The worst thing is to get into a “he said she said” case when it could have easily been avoided with a few documents.

It’s important to remember that, depending on the issue at hand, it may take some time, and possibly few more tough conversations, before the employee changes their behavior. Give them space and time to work on themselves, while also keeping watch and giving consistent feedback.

Your goal in dealing with problem employees should be to determine if the problem is one of character, lack of training, or poor job fit and then make decisions from there.

Still not sure how to handle employee related issues in your office? Click here to learn how Harrington Strategies dedicated HR professionals can bring you peace of mind.