Tips for Managing Challenging Employees

In your role as a manager, you will inevitably have to deal with difficult employees. They may be insubordinate, overly argumentative or even bullying. The root of the problem may be laziness, boredom or a lack of motivation. Whatever the reasons behind the situation, it’s up to you to nip it in the bud.

Evaluate the Situation

Begin by fully assessing the situation so you have a clear perspective on what’s going on.

  • Observe the employee in different settings. Pinpoint the behaviors that introduce stress or toxicity into their workplace. Then, observe how others respond. Try to isolate the one or two top problematic behavior patterns. Hint: In some situations, they will quickly become obvious. In others, you may need to dig more deeply.

Develop a Plan

Based on your observations, determine whether the situation calls for coaching, counseling, training or discipline. Your time invested upfront in thinking this through will pay off in the long run.

  • Coaching emphasizes specific behavior modification. Counseling focuses on problem behaviors and their implications, and can often turn into coaching opportunities. Training supports skills development and fills knowledge gaps that may be contributing to bad behavior. And as a last resort, discipline reflects an immediate improvement program – and should involve your HR team.

Confront the Problem

Don’t procrastinate when it comes to effectively addressing the problem. You may be tempted to work around it or wait it out in hopes it will resolve itself or the problem employee will leave. This is not an effective approach. You’ve done your research and made a plan. Now, it’s time to execute it.

  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. Keep an open mind. Their negative attitude and actions may stem from fear, confusion, personal problems or other factors, not necessarily pre-meditated negative intent.
  • Listen actively as you talk with a difficult employee. Stay calm and positive. Ask open-ended questions that will stimulate a productive conversation. Only when you find out what the real source of their behavior is can you effectively find a solution.

Develop a Solution Together

Unless you and the employee agree upon a solution, their negative behavior will continue. Their buy-in is critical in order for them to change it.

Take the Right Follow-Up Action

After you’ve provided a reasonable length of time for a change in behavior, schedule a time to revisit the issue with your employee and give feedback on noted changes or lack thereof.

  • If positive changes have taken place, take this opportunity to rebuild your manager-employee relationship. Show you have confidence in your team member and value their contributions.
  • Know when you’ve reached the end. While the goal is always to reach a positive solution, sometimes it’s simply not possible. When you reach such an impasse, it’s time to accept reality and instigate termination procedures in accordance with your company policy.

Are you or other managers at your company struggling with the stress of handling challenging employees? Let the leadership development experts at PrideStaff Modesto help. We can provide coaching, resources and as needed, staffing assistance to effectively address your issues and keep your workforce team satisfied, productive and motivated. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.

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