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How to Deal with Difficult Employees

how to deal with difficult employees

In a perfect world, all employees would be a great fit for their jobs, hard-working and valuable members of their team, but this isn't a perfect world! There are lots of reasons why employees might become difficult to work with or manage. Perhaps they have issues at home that are affecting their work, maybe they're not feeling supported or included in their team, or possibly, they just aren't suited to the role they're doing. Dealing with difficult employees isn't easy, but if you approach the situation professionally, you may be able to help them turn things around. Here's our advice on dealing with difficult employees.

Get to the root of the problem

When someone's displaying difficult or toxic behaviour in the workplace, there's usually a reason. Finding the root cause of the problem is a great place to start if you're dealing with a difficult employee, after all, there might be a simple solution you can put in place to help alleviate their disruptive behaviour. Talk to the difficult employee in a one-to-one meeting and see if you can find out why they're acting the way they are.

Use the information they give you to offer advice. For example, if they're struggling with mental health problems and this is making it difficult to focus on work, you could help them seek a counsellor or even make their working hours slightly more flexible so they're not under pressure to perform on their worst days.

Give clear & constructive feedback

Sometimes, employees that are difficult might not know that they're causing a problem in the workplace. It's important that when you talk to them about their behaviour and how it needs to change that you do so in a professional manner. This might be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but hopefully, it will help the difficult employee to re-assess their behaviour and start making positive changes. Make sure that your manner of speaking is not intimidating or degrading, this can worsen an employees behaviour further if they feel they're being picked on. Keep the conversation concise and constructive at all times. 

Be consistent with your approach

There's nothing more infuriating than a manager who highlights issues with certain employees but doesn't follow through with the same approach when it comes to other employees. If you've spoken to a difficult employee who continuously turns up to work late, you need to make sure the same discipline is applied every time it happens. If you let them get away with it without repercussions on some days, but come down hard on them on other days, it will send mixed signals. They'll more than likely continue showing up as and when they like, because they know it's only a 50/50 chance that you'll pull them up for it. 

The same applies to favouritism within the workplace, you need to make sure that difficult behaviour is addressed equally throughout the workforce. If you've had a serious chat with someone about their behaviour, but you let someone else get away with it, that will create feelings of mistrust and favouritism within the workplace & may even inspire further bad behaviour. 

Don't be afraid to set consequences

Employees displaying difficult behaviour can cause real rifts in the workplace over time, so it's important that their behaviours change. Giving advice and being consistent with your approach is a good place to start, but if the behaviours don't start to change, you may need to take further action. Let the person know that they'll be issued a formal warning if their behaviour hasn't changed in a set period of time.

It's important that you keep documentation of the consequences and behaviour over time so that if (after a formal warning) they haven't changed, you can take things a step further and potentially consider firing them. This should always be a last resort. 

Know when it's time to let someone go

If you've given someone a fair shot to change their ways, and they're still causing unrest in the workplace, then it might be time to let them go. You can only make excuses for people for so long, and who knows, their personality and behaviour might just be better suited to a different type of company! Business is business, and while it's uncomfortable to dismiss someone, it might work out better for them & the company in the long run. 

Here at Hyper Recruitment Solutions, we work with businesses and candidates to help place the right people in the right jobs! This can have a huge impact on whether employees end up being 'difficult' or not, so don't rush the recruitment process. Get in touch with us on +44 (0)203 910 2980 to find out more.