Performance Management / HR

Tips for managing 4 types of difficult employees

When employees exhibit negative workplace behaviors, it can disturb an entire organization’s success.

Difficult employees can reduce employee morale, put a halt on productivity and other employees’ performance, create business losses, and even become a legal liability, if not handled correctly. So, how can you stay ahead of the curve and stop these employees from wreaking havoc on your business? Here’s a list of the common types of disruptors, and ways you can improve your management style to handle tough employee situations.

1. The overly emotional employee

Have you noticed an employee who has a tendency to raise their voice or slam doors when they’re upset? This type of behavior is not only unprofessional, but it can also create an uneasy atmosphere for other employees in your office.

When a tough conversation is needed with an overly emotional employee, start by explaining the issue. The focus should be on the employee’s behavior, not the person. Be sure to keep a cool head and remain professional. Your employees look to you to set the parameters of what type of behavior is acceptable.

2. The bully

Are there employees who repeatedly participate in gossip, are overly critical, or even take credit for work that’s not theirs? Or, is there a manager in your organization that uses bullying as a way of motivating their team to perform?

While you should never be quick to put someone in a category, it’s critical to pay attention to employee behavior on an ongoing basis. If you notice a trend, it may be time to have a talk about their behavior. However, keep in mind that it’s important to gather the facts from all sides. Listen carefully before rushing to any judgement. When it’s time to have a talk, be as direct as you possibly can. Have examples. Also, be sure to make mention of consequences if the employee does not make changes.

3. The naysayer

No one can be positive 100 percent of the time. Everyone has good days and bad days. That’s just human. However, at times, there are employees who seem to have a dark cloud perpetually hanging over their head that rains on anyone they encounter. Before you rush to judgement, begin with some self-reflection. While you may think your difficult employee just has a bad attitude, sometimes the problem stems from the way they’re being managed.

It’s always a good idea to check your leadership style and consider whether your own actions might be contributing to their behavior. If you don’t believe your leadership style is the root cause, start the coaching conversation by showing concern for the individual’s wellbeing. Let them know that you noticed their negative attitude, and ask what you can do to help. From there, keep any coaching professional, specific and accurate. Always focus on the facts.

4. The social butterfly

It’s normal for employees to want to socialize and talk to one another. However, when there aren’t clear boundaries, excessive talkers can become disruptive to the whole team. Start by creating safe places and times for employees to chat. This could be a break room where employees can stop for coffee, or you may even want to plan social events or team get-togethers from time to time.

In open-floorplan environments, you can also create a system that allows employees to communicate politely when they’re in need of quiet. For example, you could create signs that employees post for others to see when they don’t want to be disrupted. If there’s an employee who is still causing disruptions, or missing deadlines due to excessive socializing, it may be time to have a candid discussion.

Explain that they’re spending too much time socializing and not enough time working. You might encourage this type of employee to channel their energy elsewhere by allowing them to plan any social outings for the group, like birthday celebrations or team-building exercises.

Be a strong leader

Your leadership role in managing difficult employees cannot be discounted. At the helm of your business, it’s your responsibility to take notice if disruptive behaviors are preventing your organization from performing at its best. While having tough conversations is never easy, it can have a positive impact on your organization when executed with tact.

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About the Author: Stacey Dennis

Stacey Dennis is a senior human resources specialist the full-service HR firm Insperity. She’s experienced in employee relations, learning and performance, policies and procedures, and organizational development. Driven by a yearning to cont…

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