Managing the difficult employee

by Leon Gettler | |   Managing People
Managing the difficult employee

They're in every office. How do you manage the difficult employee?

The difficult employees, the ones who lack social skills, who have personality issues, who work at a slow pace, who take forever to make decisions, who are sloppy, the drama queens, the panic merchants, the ones with bad tempers, the ones who thrive on negative attention and the ones who are always late, are the big challenge for every CEO. No one wants to work with them, productivity decreases, frustrations rise, morale goes down and customers and vendors get upset. It hurts the business. So how best to deal with them?

Human resources specialist Paul Falcone says the CEO needs to distinguish between sub-standard performance and misconduct. Both are very different in the eyes of the law. He suggests the company adopt a three strike approach where there is a verbal warning followed by a written and then a final written warning. With a firm record of verbal interventions and written corrective action in place, most problematic performers or workers with bad attitudes will simply move on to other organisations.

Francesca Lopez in HR Magazine says managers have to investigate apparent personality clashes or disruptive behaviour fully. People might be acting out because they’re dealing with personal issues. If employees are not getting along, managers might consider inviting them to attend workplace mediation, either with a member of the HR team or an external HR consultant. In certain circumstances, it might be appropriate to relocate employees. Consider internal or external secondments, or a sideways move. Make sure you have well-drafted anti-bullying and harassment policies in place and operate a zero tolerance approach.  Include well-drafted disciplinary and grievance policies in your staff handbook. If there isn't a handbook, consider having these policies in place anyway, to afford you and your staff certainty. Include suitable notice, termination, payment in lieu of notice, suspension and garden leave provisions in your employment contracts. This gives you maximum flexibility to terminate an individual’s employment if appropriate. . If you genuinely believe that there is no other option available but to dismiss an employee because of their personality or behavioural issues, implement a fair dismissal process and be sure to document your reasons for termination

According to Profiles International, it’s important not only to talk to the employee but to also state the clear outcomes that are desired, to lay out the next steps and to write everything down.

“Before going into the conversation, ask yourself several key questions. Consult with Human Resources, peers, and other appropriate resources to be sure you're comfortable with the answers.

Key questions include:

•    What is my purpose for having the conversation?
•    What do I hope to accomplish?
•    What is the ideal outcome? What are other possible outcomes?
•    What assumptions am I making about the other person's reaction to the conversation?
•    What "hot buttons" exist - for me and for the other person?
•    How is my attitude toward the conversation contributing to the intended outcome?”

In the case of high performers with difficult personalities, they suggest mechanism like training, reviews and probation. “If the person's behaviour goes too far and they remain employed, it could seriously damage staff morale. Do not be too hesitant to let these people go just because they are high performers. This one person could badly affect the remaining 'well-behaved' employees. These employees are the backbone of your company!”

How do you manage difficult employees?