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Troublesome Employees
We’ve All Got One!

There are very few businesses who don’t have that one difficult employee who just seems to be more trouble than they are worth.  They take up a disproportionate amount of management time with their issues and grumbles, are a negative presence in the office, and obstruct rather than support change.  They don’t do anything that’s so wrong as to warrant disciplinary action but just make everything so much harder than it needs to be.

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Dealing with Difficult Employees

Businesses deal with these difficult, poorly performing employees in a variety of ways:

  • Some tackle the problem head on which can be challenging as these difficult employees often don’t realise what they are doing.  (They tend to lack an ability to take ownership and responsibility for their actions and therefore sit in any meeting being defensive and failing to acknowledge the problem).
  • Other businesses ignore the problem.  They accept that “There’s always one” and just try to work around the individual and limit their ability to be disruptive.

Here are some things you can try to help you protect your business from any troublesome employee(s) where going down the disciplinary path is unwarranted or undesirable.

Set Clear Cultural Values

We work with a lot of our clients to implement behavioural frameworks which set out the behaviours employees are expected to display.  Having a document which clearly defines what is and is not acceptable can really help when you need to have a structured conversation with a difficult employee.  You have something that you can point at and say “Here is where you aren’t meeting our expectations.”

Be Honest

Given that this type of employee can be defensive and oblivious to the issue there is no point in trying to soften the message.  They are what my father refers to as “a mallet job”, i.e. they need hitting with direct messages (although not a hammer!)  It can be difficult but you need to be very direct about the behaviours that are causing a challenge.

Make Sure You and Your Management Team Set a Positive Example

If your management team are grumbly and negative, this will permeate through your business.  Issues and disagreements should be discussed within the team and not everyone is going to agree with every decision.  However, when managers deal with team members, they have to be supportive of where the business is going and the decisions that have been made.

Nip Issues in the Bud

Without becoming overly aggressive, it’s useful to tackle any rumblings you hear as soon as you hear them.

If you become aware that someone is unhappy and sharing their views with other team members then it’s better to address the issue.  Call the individual into a meeting and explain that you’re aware that they aren’t happy about a specific issue and you wanted to understand what the problem was.

You do need to ensure you keep the right balance here.  You don’t want to give the message that moaning will get your attention but you do need to make it clear that you look for constructive feedback and not negative reactions.

If you’d like help with employee performance, employee conduct or any other HR matter, contact us on 0203 319 1649 or fill in the form below.

Contact Us

If you’d like help with employee performance, employee conduct or any other HR matter, contact us on 0203 319 1649 or fill in the form below.

Contact Us

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