Five Ways to Handle a Difficult Employee

Even the most experienced employers end up making bad hiring decisions from time to time. Unless you are a human resource genius, chances are you’ve hired someone you thought was perfect for the role, only to find out sometime later that they are difficult to work with or manage. 

Does this sound familiar? The good news is that there are ways to minimise the risk of a problem employee as a business owner and resolve it when it does happen. The best way to cope with difficult employee behaviour is with a problematic employee policy. HRonHand can help you manage a difficult employee peacefully and without significant interruption to your business.

Signs That You Have a Difficult Employee

How do you know if an employee is difficult or getting hard to manage? There are several signs to look out for.

One of the most evident signs that you have a difficult employee can be seen through their performance. If you notice that your employee’s performance has declined or is not up to par, without any explanation and they haven’t shown any concern or interest in improving, that might be a sign of a difficult employee.

Another clear sign that you have difficult employees is complaints from other staff. Your employees interact with each other more than you interact with them, so they may have better insights into how a particular employee works and collaborates with them.  

Other signs that you have a difficult employee could include:

  • Your challenging employee responds poorly to direction or feedback and performance management
  • They seem disinterested in the role or the company
  • They participate in workplace bullying
  • You receive complaints from customers and witness other disruptive behaviour
  • Sales or KPIs are slipping as a direct result of their behaviour

Luckily, there are several ways that a difficult-employee policy may help you avoid many of these consequences. Let’s take a look at those.

Five Ways to Handle a Difficult Employee

A difficult-employee policy is the best way to spot and help a difficult employee, before putting your company at risk. Let’s look at five ways to handle a difficult employee:

1. Listen to complaints from other employees 

As mentioned, employee complaints are one of the top signs of a difficult employee. For this reason, if you’ve received complaints about problematic behaviour from other employees, it’s best to address them as soon as possible. 

A difficult employee can create a toxic work environment, make your employees feel negative about their workplace, and lead to higher staff turnover. Don’t put off discussing toxic employee behaviour with your human resource team. If you need additional help, discuss your options with an outsourced HR expert such as HRonHand. 

2. Provide feedback to your employee

Before taking extreme action, such as warnings, suspension, or termination, you should provide feedback to your problematic employee, allowing your employee to amend their behaviour.

When you provide written and in-person feedback to the disruptive employee, ensure the feedback addresses their behaviour and does not come off as an attack on their character, as that could have adverse effects and make the situation worse. 

At the same time, you don’t want to be too general. Use examples that relate to your business and team to help illustrate what you’re trying to convey.

3. Be open to your employee’s response

Once you give your employees feedback, you must give them a chance to respond. After all, there’s a chance that they might not even know that their behaviour is negatively impacting the company, so it’s a good idea to give them an opportunity to provide their point of view.

For your preparation, it’s a good idea to model the response you want from them. This means whoever is giving the feedback must be open to receiving feedback in return. Thank them for their response and write it down. 

Worst-case scenario, you find the employee genuinely problematic, and you can use your difficult-employee policy to take action. However, the best-case scenario may be that a difficult employee provides the creative answer your business has been missing! 

4. Go over the requirements of the role

Sometimes your problem employee may seem difficult simply because they don’t fully understand the requirements of their role. While discussing your employee’s behaviour, review the requirements of their position and your HR policies that dictate expectations for employee behaviour.

Write down the exact requirements of their role so the expectations are clear. Then you want to highlight the expectations of them changing their behaviour and performing at the expected level. Put a time frame on what you expect and ask them if they agree. 

5. Give your employee a second chance 

The last essential component of any difficult-employee policy is to give them another chance. Sometimes all you need to do is give your employee time to fix the issue to have it resolved and have everything be in harmony again.

Develop an action plan with your employee, and guide as needed. Monitor their progress and keep an ear to the ground from the wider team to determine if additional disciplinary action is necessary. 

Difficult-Employee Policy: Handle Them Sooner Rather Than Later

A difficult employee can make it difficult for your entire organisation to operate. However, instead of ignoring the problem, you should work with your difficult employee to get to the root of the problem and help them correct their behaviour.

If you found this article helpful for forming a difficult-employee policy, we’d love to hear your feedback! Please contact us and let us know your experience managing difficult employees.

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