Dealing with Difficult Employees

  • Brace
  • August 22, 2018
  • 5 min

For what feels like all of time, difficult employees have been a thorn in the side of company leaders. Such employees can cause friction in the workplace or deadlines to constantly be missed, bringing the whole team down. But, as is all too often the case, the source of trouble can be closer to home, or rather, to the workplace, starting with overlooked needs such as unclear communication and a lack of feedback between employees and management.

You know the story: Difficult employees always know better, they waste their time with idle conversation from 9 to 5, and always push back their responsibilities. But employees of the “complicated” variety aren’t just detrimental to the work atmosphere, they also pose a risk to team chemistry and company success. The experts all agree that there is no quick solution for difficult employees. Instead, having problematic team members in the office can point to deep-seated issues in the workplace; problems that require special attention and a hands-on solution. If you find yourself in this predicament, we have some useful tips for handling and preventing difficult employees.

Pay Attention from Day 1

The first piece of advice is to pay attention from the very beginning, so that regular employees never become difficult employees. To accomplish this, you need to be alert during the application process. Along with qualifications, you have to keep social skills and markers for emotional intelligence in mind. Relationship skills, self-awareness, and social competence aren’t just trendy words but are necessities for a friction-free workplace atmosphere and a successfully organized team. This has already become apparent to many managers, since, in a pinch, it is always easier to train employees in an essential skill than it is to turn a curmudgeon into a kind, helpful, and positive person.

Keep an Open Mind and Open Door During Onboarding

The job interview isn’t the only chance to ensure that an applicant becomes a good fit for the job, the workplace, and the team. During the onboarding process, you can take steps to seamlessly integrate your new team member. To do this, it’s essential to have personal, two-way conversations to clarify expectation on both sides, and to clearly define the tasks and responsibilities of the new team member. Encourage your new employee to ask questions if anything is unclear, and emphasize that they can always come to you about problems or concerns.

It’s also important to continue having open and regular communication after the onboarding process. It should only take 15 minutes every week to exchange feedback and to communicate to the team member how their contributions benefit the company goals. Regular feedback is an underrated, yet incredibly important, part of effective cooperation, which is too often overlooked by company leaders.

A Change of Perspective

Of course, as a manager, it’s not always possible to accompany every employee from their first introduction to office. Especially if you are just taking the reins for the first time or leading a new department, it can be a challenge to (re)integrate difficult employees into your team. In such cases, it can be helpful to consider what you personally can do to improve the situation, as it’s not always clear to employees that they are causing a problem. Even here, it is important to use feedback, along with mutual respect and trust, to clarify expectations and clear the path of any future obstacles.

Purpose Brings Productivity

In many cases, an employee’s problematic behavior is the result of a lack of motivation and engagement. This can happen when it isn’t clear to a team member what role their work plays in achieving company goals or how valued they are for the organization as a whole. A feeling of doubt can arise from this misunderstanding, causing an employee to question the value and purpose of their work. Fortunately, all of this can be easily prevented. Through consistently communicating the relevance and importance of an employee and their efforts, you unleash their motivation and engagement and can keep them active and connected in your team.

Consistent, Continuous Feedback is Indispensable

In short, successful teamwork is dependent on successful communication. Whether you want to address criticism and misunderstandings or express praise and recognition, regular feedback is integral to a well-oiled team and vibrant company culture.

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