Managing Difficult Employees

managing difficult employeeesAs an employer, you’ll encounter your share of difficult employees. When you’re recruiting, you’ll do your best to choose candidates with great attitudes and solid experience, you might even take up references to establish if what they say about their abilities to perform at work stacks up with previous employment. Unfortunately, even the best candidates can have little idiosyncrasies that make them difficult to work with in day-to-day operations.
These “quirks” are not necessarily worth dismissing somebody over especially if they get their work done on time and their standard of work is acceptable; but someone who flat out refuses to work in a particular way or work with particular people or undertake particular tasks because they are against “their principles” can become a huge headache. We’re not saying that all employees have to kowtow to you without question, indeed challenge is healthy, it makes you questions why you are working in a particular way but employees who become unmanageable are something else again.
This kind of employee can make it difficult for you to keep your team productive while retaining your image as leader. If you find managing difficult employees, try one of these three strategies:

  1. Set written expectations.

Be clear from day one with all employees that there are some things that aren’t negotiable. Setting expectations in advance reduces the chances of any lack of clarity or confusion when you enforce your expectations. For example, from day 1 make sure all your employees know that texts or e-mails to notify sickness absence are unacceptable.  If an employee then ignores this policy by texting you, remind him/her that this policy was made clear up front and is not negotiable. This first warning hopefully prevents further issues but if the employee continues to ignore you you have paved the way for formal disciplinary action.

  1. Prioritise your requests.

If you start from the position that your employee will resist some of your requests, be clear in your own mind which ones are not negotiable, and which ones are open to discussion. Meet with the employee, start the meeting by laying out the issues you are going to discuss. Start with an issue on which you will not compromise e.g. a deadline for a project, then move onto an issue on which you can compromise e.g. you have a deadline which is not moveable but the order in which the employee does the work is not an issue that you need to dictate.
This approach shows that you’re willing to compromise on minor issues, but your overall direction must take absolute priority.

  1. Document improvement plans.

If your employee is still resistant to your requirements meet with them and document the issues and together create an improvement plan. Define the level of performance or behaviour that you require, explain the level of performance or behaviour that the employee is delivering and work with the employee to deliver improvement within a certain timescale e.g. two months.
Monitor performance or behaviour during those two months, meeting at least once during the period to update one another on progress. Once the two months’ is finished meet again and go over the improvement points. If the employee has delivered the improvements you identified, your problems are solved. If the employee has not improved, you have clear grounds for progressing the matter formally through your disciplinary procedure.
Some employees are simply easier to manage than others, and some hard-to-manage employees are worth the extra effort. If you choose to keep a more challenging employee on your team for the long term, you may need a shift in your mind-set and extra patience to make things work.
If you’re still having trouble after employing these mitigation strategies, it’s probably time to take professional advice.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of Englandsupporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.

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