Managing People – Dealing With Difficult Employees

Managing People – Dealing With Difficult Employees

Most people you manage will be good and willing employees.  They are anxious to learn, to do their best and to get on well with their colleagues. But every manager finds themselves dealing with someone who is little difficult, at some point in their career.  For one reason or another, and it is good to find out why, this particular person is a problem.

There are ways to handle problem employees that reduce stress and minimize their taxing effect.  If you follow this plan, you should be able to deal with them quickly and contain the collateral damage they tend to create.

What you need to do is flip!

  • Flip the focus!
  • Flip the strategy.

Stop trying to change people and start trying to create an opportunity for them to change themselves, if they decide it is in their best interests to do so. This way business continues as usual while the problem employee makes a choice as to whether he or she wants to jump on board – or jump off.

This approach is clean and easy without lots of hassle. You don’t waste the time you need to invest in the rest of the business to produce a positive return.  The new approach can help you generate a healthy, low-maintenance, low-drama environment, which is better for everyone.

Here is the five step plan;

Step 1 Paint a picture that illustrates exactly what you expect and make sure the person understands that picture.

Step 2 Set-out clearly what is acceptable and what is not.  Use terms that are specific about the kinds of behavior that will not be tolerated.

Step 3 Explain what will happen when, and if, there is a recurrence of the bad behavior (talk to your HR department if you are unclear about the formal disciplinary procedure in your work place).

Step 4 Step back and give the individual a real opportunity to behave differently.

Step 5 Follow-up and follow through.  If the person responds well, then reward with praise.  If not, then follow-up exactly as you described in Step 3. If you don’t, you send a mixed message and the situation may become worse than before.

Always give the person an opportunity to explain why they have behaved badly – listen carefully to what they say. If there are extenuating circumstances, take them into account. Be firm but be fair and treat all your employees, including this one, with respect.

Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at and find out more at

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