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Managing Difficult Employees

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Managing Employees Staff Difficult

Sound management procedures are needed to tackle the serious problem of difficult employees, a subject commonly underestimated and ignored by many organisations.

Difficult Employee Warnings

Wasted work time, loss of productivity, greater inefficiency and increased staff turnover are all familiar symptoms of organisations faced with difficult employees in their midst. Employees that work alongside difficult co-workers often find their morale suffers, their commitment to their work and job satisfaction decreases, and they find themselves lumbered with greater levels of stress and frustration. This is why it is vital that efforts are made to understand the motivation of difficult staff members and how to manage them effectively.

More than half of the Human Resources professionals interviewed in a recent survey weren’t confident in their manager’s ability to handle a difficult staff member and almost three quarters believed that disruptive employees were themselves a result of poor management.

Others believed that a lot of disruptive employees are simply a ‘lost cause’ and beyond rehabilitation and the skills of managers. Many even engineered their redundancy or dismissal from the company. On the contrary, difficult employees were not born monsters and are far from beyond help. They just need to be understood and carefully managed.

Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Employees

Whether you believe difficult employees are causing problems within your organisation or not, it is important that procedures are established that will ensure that all individuals are managed effectively if a problem character does emerge. It is important to send out the message to staff that conduct issues are dealt with appropriately and decisively, and in a consistent manner.

Informal Talk

If you are faced with a disruptive employee then before considering time-consuming formal action it’s sensible to just have a private, informal talk with the individual about the problem. This simple technique alone can often do the trick.

It is important that this chat highlights the negative impact of their behaviour. For example, the moaner, the liar or the victim might be oblivious to the effects their behaviour has on other colleagues and the company as a whole.

If an employee has a genuine grievance about another colleague then it’s important that the complaint is treated seriously and sensitively, and that action is promptly taken. Seemingly ‘minor’ problems will only get worse the longer they are ignored and may build into a much larger crisis that is ultimately much harder to deal with.

Formal Procedures

It’s essential that formal procedures are established within an organisation for when informal strategies fail to deal with a difficult subject. To prevent staff only first becoming aware of these official measures when a problem arises, the procedures should be detailed in staff contracts and all employees should be informed of company policy.

A clear, concise and widely published policy showing what levels of conduct and work are expected of employees is very important. As is making clear what the consequences are of failing to abide by these standards.

The process set up to formally and fairly deal with difficult employees resistant to informal pressure should make sure that the individual is given full details about the claims made against them and given every opportunity to construct their defence.

Recruitment Policy and Other Opportunities

To prevent disruptive employees entering the company in the first place it is recommended to review the recruitment policy. A sound system with in-depth screening process will not only help to reduce the number of conduct issue warnings further down the line but also increase the number of employees who less concerned with disruption and more with high standards of work.

Additionally if the problem relates to capability issues then it is also advisable to conduct a review of the support currently available to employees, such as in training or further opportunities within the organisation.

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