Dealing with Difficult Employees

When a person manages a team, he/she should be able to work with different employees. During the search of new workers, a manager tries to select candidates with impressive experience, professional attitude, and visual evidence of their effective work in the new environment. Unfortunately, a manager cannot always notice that there is a problem person in front of him/her during the interview. Thus, there are difficult employees probably in every team. With them, it is difficult to communicate, build relationships, and work. The purpose of the current paper is to study the types of difficult employees and how to deal with them. 

The study of the characteristics and personal problems of employees, as well as knowledge of psychology and communication rules, will help learn how to work with difficult subordinates. All people are categorized by the type of the character. The same is applied to the types of difficult employees. To some extent, it facilitates the work of the manager. After identification, an employer will know to what type a hard worker belongs to and, respectively, how to build relations with him/her. 

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There are several types of difficult employees. The first one includes indecisive subordinates, who are unable to take responsibility for certain actions. In the book Security Supervision and Management, it is noted that “these indecisive individuals generally do not trust their own judgment and are often afraid of making the wrong decision”. Such difficult employees will postpone to the last moment until someone else will take a responsible decision for them. The second type includes bullies. They constantly cling to everybody, love to poke fun at the colleagues and quickly become annoyed. Such employees usually do not pay attention to the opinion of others including the manager. Another type includes subordinates whiners. They always have something to complain about. IFPO states that “this type of person must be considered dangerous to your department as a whole as he/she will bring down morale on his/her shift or team and it can eventually spread through the whole department”. They do nothing to solve the problem and always look for a reason why a task cannot be completed. One more widespread type is reserved subordinates calmly and silently perceiving any order. Such a person usually annoys colleagues and managers because they do not know what to expect from him/her. It is obvious that it is not an exhaustive list of difficult types of employees. Frequently, managers are faced with other types of employees whose behavior and a manner of communication create difficulties in the relations with the team.

It is definitely difficult to say which of the presented types of problem employees is the most unpleasant and complicated. Nevertheless, constant sociological researches are held in this direction. For example, according to the survey of Citrix Survey, 51% of employees believe that a whiner is one of the most unpleasant employees in the team.

Work forces managers to constantly deal with difficult people. Sometimes, the best variant is to adjust. Nevertheless, the presence of difficult people in the team always has a bad influence on the general atmosphere. In the book Dealing with Difficult People, it is written that “they are into themselves and are, usually, difficult with everyone”. A good leader should try to find a solution to the problem before it leads to serious consequences. It is necessary to make sure Moreover, management needs to determine what behavior is acceptable in the company and what is not.

Another important step in work with difficult employees is to analyze the problem. It is useful to meet with the problem employee personally, describe the problem, and look at the reaction. After all, a person may not be aware that his/her actions cause irritation of other employees. In this case, the employer should calmly explain, make several examples, and give a chance to improve. However, if the worker ignores the guidance, it is possible to take more stringent measures including dismissal.

Company’s management or other employees should indicate the problems to a difficult person. As soon as the employee becomes aware of the problem, it is better to give certain instructions and advice. Therefore, it will be easier to change for a person. It is obvious that it takes time but the results will be felt. If the employee continues to deny the charges and does not want to compromise, the head should take steps to improve situation – either introduce a system of penalties or discharge. In such a way, control of personnel solves a great number of problems. A manager can identify difficult employees and understand how their behavior affects others. It is reasonable to analyze the situation and take a decision that will positively affect the overall productivity of the company. A significant thing is not to procrastinate. An extremely important thing is to know the reason of such behavior as there is always a reason for it. In the book Dealing with Difficult People Easily, it is stated that “always look for a reason behind poor behavior and consider whether it is justified or not”. For example, an employee can have problems in a family and, thus, it is a reason for his poor work or rude behavior. Therefore, a manager should understand a real cause of bad behavior. Besides, it is extremely significant to remain positive. In the book 90 Steps to Employee Engagement & Staff Motivation, the author Finlay Morrell affirms that “being positive is critical in dealing with difficult situations and motivating staff”. An employer should motivate staff and show a positive attitude to every employee. 

In a crisis situation, the company’s leadership should conduct diplomatic management in respect of employees. It is necessary to restrain nervousness of middle managers who pass anxiety to their subordinates. It is useful to inform all employees about the strategy and tactics taken by the management. It is necessary to prepare staff psychologically for changes and explain that the crisis is a time of new opportunities. It is better to be transparent with the staff as uncertainty generates speculation and rumors. 

Despite all the efforts to hire perfect, honest, and exemplary staff, problems may arise in any workplace. Therefore, a difficult employee is a problem for every company. Control over the work of the staff can always detect those employees that create obvious problems for the business. However, there are also employees whose negative impact in the company cannot be immediately detected and its consequences are not so easy to remove.

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