Managing a Difficult Employee

By Ryan Lamberson

Managing a difficult employee 

Management comes in all shapes and sizes. Good management can be somewhat rare. Our management skills really get put to the test during difficult times and especially with managing difficult employees. There are a number of personality tests that can help managers and employers ensure they have a good fit before hiring like DISC or Meyers Briggs. However, if you find yourself reading this and thinking that’s great advice, but I have a difficult employee on my hands right now, worry not. 

Employees usually become difficult for a few reasons. Below are just a few. 

  • Personal problems outside of work
  • Expectations outweigh their ability
  • They feel overlooked, unappreciated, and unsupported
  • The employee doesn’t fit in the organization’s culture

The job of a manager is to identify what’s driving the negative behavior or attitude of the employee. Whatever the reason, the manager must begin by putting on the hat of a coach and providing some feedback, wisdom, or resources to help the employee become successful again. Sometimes help comes in the form of a listening ear about some stressors in the employee’s personal life. Our personal life always carries over into our professional life no matter how well we try or think we manage it. Others can easily see it. Regardless of the driver, the employee needs to know the expected behavior and that it needs to change.

After locating the difficult employee’s issue(s) there should be time allowed for the employee to course correct. In many cases, the employees will realize the need for change and work towards the needed progress. In other cases, the employee just isn’t a fit in the organization’s culture or they refuse to make the needed changes after being given adequate time and coaching. In both of these scenarios, it’s time for the difficult employee to move on. It’s not an easy decision, but the cost of keeping the wrong person on the team is great. 

Managers will all face a difficult employee at some point in their career. Stay committed to having conversations with them early and often until there is a solution.

July 6, 2022