If you’ve ever had to manage a difficult employee, you know that these workers can weaken your organization by destroying morale, increasing anxiety and negatively impacting the performance of others.
The HR Magazine article How Do You Deal with Difficult Employees? asks the question: What defines a ’difficult’ employee? Is it:
- A person who is a little unorthodox in his approach to work but stays inside the lines enough to avoid disciplinary issues?
- Or the worker whose manager never helped set her up for success or who put her in a no-win situation?
- Is it the person who is facing tremendous personal challenges and just doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to handle problems at work as well?”
Regardless of how you define it, it's important to identify the pain points that are influencing the employee’s actions. Unclear goals, poor communication, micromanagement, or even a skills deficiency or mismatch can affect behavior, and managers have a responsibility to get to the root of the problem.
When managers focus on finding solutions to these challenges and the right fit for the employee’s skills and strengths, success is likely to follow.
Difficult employees come in many varieties and will exhibit specific behaviors that will cause managers to label them as troublesome. Here are a few examples:
The Unleadable: Unleadables are driven by their own ideas rather than their boss’s. Because they will relentlessly pursue their personal vision, give them a challenging mountain to climb without dictating how they should get to the top.
The Diva: Divas think everything should be designed around them. Their confidence and drive can be useful in their own work, but they tend to tear down everything around them. Get divas to use their attention-grabbing skills to promote the overall organization.
The Dreamer: Dreamers’ ideas are clouds in the sky that float away before anyone can use them. Their lofty thoughts can spark real innovation, but dreamers aren’t interested in the details of implementation. Coach them to make their idea clouds rain with new products and processes.
The Cynic: Cynics quickly point out the flaws in ideas. They have critical thinking skills that can benefit businesses but, if unchecked, their negativity can undermine innovation and morale. Challenge them to improve others’ ideas without tearing them down completely.
The Maverick: Mavericks push boundaries. While shaking things up can drive creativity, constant changes without a clear purpose can destroy morale. Lead mavericks to bring others with them on their quests to innovate in a way that inspires all.
In the HR Magazine article How to Transform Troublesome Employees into Tremendous Team Players, author and leadership and organizational culture consultant Alan Willett says that “With the right mindset and methods,” managers “can transform the troublesome worker into a tremendous contributor and lift the energy and productivity of the whole organization.” Leaders need to recognize that “their employees' troublesome behavior isn't based on an intent to do harm but an intent to do good—even if it isn't apparent at the time.”
How do you handle troublesome employees in your organization?
Please join @shrmnextchat at 3 p.m. ET on April 26 for #Nextchat with special guest Alan Willett. We'll chat about how to turn your troublesome employees into tremendous team players.
Q1. As a people manager, what difficult employee behaviors have you worked with in the past?
Q2. What are the best methods for finding the root cause of a difficult employee’s behaviors?
Q3. What type of difficult employee personality is the most destructive to a team?
Q4. What type of difficult employee personality is the most challenging for a manager to turn around?
Q5. How can inexperienced or bad managers exacerbate the difficult employee’s behavior? What should managers do/NOT do?
Q6. How do you know when a difficult employee cannot be saved? When is it time to part ways?
Q7. What are your best practices for preventing employee behavior problems?
Q8. Difficult employees can mentally and emotionally exhaust managers. What advice do you have to help managers stay positive?
If you missed this #Nextchat you can read all the tweets here.