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As a manager, it’s inevitable you’ll have to deal with difficult employees from time to time. You can’t ignore them because, chances are, the problem won’t just go away. Difficult employees can sap morale, decimate productivity and stir up unrest in team members due to their disturbing behavior. It’s never fun, but taking a timely, deliberate approach to resolution is part of your job.

Evaluate the Situation

Be sure you have an accurate, clear perspective on the problem before you move towards a resolution.

  • Observe the employee in different work scenarios. Look for specific behaviors that provoke stress, disagreement or toxicity. Note how others respond to the employee. Try to isolate one or two behaviors that others have complained about or are obvious red flags.
  • Don’t respond to complaints or innuendo until you confirm details yourself. Talk to the people involved and gather all the facts you can, before taking action.
  • Remember, everybody has bad days – or weeks. If an otherwise congenial employee suddenly becomes uncooperative or uncommunicative, consider there may be extenuating circumstances which may or may not be work-related.

Take Action

Based on your evaluation, determine whether the situation calls for coaching, counseling, training or discipline. The time you spend thinking things through will pay off during your actual interactions with the difficult employee.

  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. Don’t assume that inappropriate behavior is intentional. It may stem from confusion, lack of direction or motivation, personal problems or other factors beyond the employee’s control.
  • Actively listen. When meeting with the employee, stay calm and positive. Ask open-ended questions that lead to a constructive discussion. Don’t interrupt while the employee is speaking. When you do respond, summarize back to them what they just said, so they know you’ve been listening.
  • Aim for continuous improvement. Minor problems, such as being late for work, may be resolved with a simple chat. More complicated ones may require more than one confrontation. Be patient. Aim for continuous improvement, rather than instant success.
  • Know when you’re in over your head. Sometimes, the underlying issue with a difficult employee is beyond your capabilities to solve; for instance, there may be psychological problems that require professional help. Know when to refer an individual to your EAP or other resources.
  • Know when you’ve reached an impasse. While your goal is a solution that keeps everyone happy, sometimes that’s simply not possible. Know when you need to begin disciplinary or even termination procedures, in accordance with your company policies.

Managing people is the most important, most challenging and most rewarding thing you do every day. If you need additional tips or resources for your management toolkit – or to source, hire and retain the best talent available – contact PrideStaff Fresno today.

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