A difficult employee in any business will reduce productivity, have a negative impact and potentially upset other colleagues too. So the quicker you can resolve the problem, the better your business will do.
If you let things slide for too long and just don’t act, you will miss important opportunities, waste time and probably money, that you simply can’t regain.
Also remember employees will be looking to you, to see how you manage the situation. Action’s speak louder than words and your action’s send a message to every employee, however any lack of any action sends an even more powerful one.
Perhaps what seemed to be an impressive characteristic during the interview stage has proved to be negative as the months have gone by? or maybe an experience in your employee’s personal life has changed their behaviour at work?
On the other hand, could a series of small difficulties be starting to mount and cause concern.
Below we have listed 5 tips to help when you’re managing difficult employees in the workplace.
1. Clear communication
Always give your employee the benefit of the doubt. They may not realise that they’re causing difficulties.
It’s also possible that they know things aren’t going well, but they’re struggling to improve the situation.
Be prepared to listen to their viewpoint. Take time to ask how they’re feeling and to find out what’s going on in their lives. Are they having trouble with their workload? Are there frictions between multiple employees? Is something outside the workplace having an impact on performance or behaviour?
Share the experience from your side, without being overly critical or apportioning blame on your employee. It’s important that they know what difficulties you’re facing as their manager, but accusations will not go down well.
When communicating, it’s important that you’re clear about exactly where the problem lies. Is their performance below the required standard, or is there a specific behaviour that’s becoming a concern? Work with your employee to find ways to improve the situation.
When you listen to a difficult employee, you can often turn things around. Equally as important, you might discover legitimate complaints that you can act on for the good of your business.
2. Always keep a written record
Written records benefit everyone.
If you need to take disciplinary action, it’s essential that you’ve got examples to back up your decision.
Write down any instances of difficult behaviour. Who was involved? What happened? What effect did it have?
You can use your records if you need to take formal steps, but should also be able to refer to them when speaking with the employee in question.
3. Always refer to your handbooks and HR policies
Every workplace should have handbooks and policies that detail what’s expected of an employee, and it’s essential that everyone has access to these at all times. Storing them within your online HR software is the most effective way to reach every person in the workplace, and to keep everything up to date.
4. Know when to seek advice
Managing a difficult employee is a challenge. Their behaviour will almost certainly be having an impact on their colleagues, and the business as a whole.
Unless you’ve been through it before, it’s like that you will not know how to deal with a difficult worker. What are you allowed to do, and what might cause more trouble? Even if you’ve been managing difficult employees in the workplace before, these specific concerns might be different.
Don’t be afraid to seek help and advice, whether that’s from another member of the management team or an external HR consultant.
5. Keep going
It’s all too easy to speak to a an employee, tell them that their behaviour isn’t acceptable and then forget to follow things up. Much like being a parent, threatening “I’m going to count to 10…” and having no plan for what happens afterwards. After you’ve counted to 10, it’s vital that you make another move.
If you provide a warning and the behaviour continues and you don’t take further action, your initial conversation is wasted. You’ll probably need to start again further down the line or even worse, you send a message that you are inconsistent and that your threats are meaningless.