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Team Samex . July 6, 2021

How to deal with difficult employees

There will always be disruptions in your workforce. In many cases it can be due to misaligned priorities, or unrealistic deadlines. Sometimes, the everyday task of supporting your customers can interfere with how your company operates. But what do you do when the disruption in your company comes from one of your own?


In this article, we’ll discuss some options you can explore as a leader to handle disruptive or challenging team members. We’ll take a different and favorable approach because how you handle insubordination as a leader will have rippling effects throughout your organization.


A Different Approach

When dealing with difficult employees, the first option is to welcome the challenge. If someone isn’t happy with your leadership or the direction in which you’re taking the team, then you could try looking at the feedback provided as a valid concern for you and the organization. While this approach gives the most favorable outcome, it’s also the most challenging for leaders.


Why?


Because many people don’t do well with criticism, especially those in positions of power and leadership. However, if you take another perspective, you’ll be able to see that the employee that is critical of your leadership, must clearly have some motivation for not liking the way things are going. This is information that will be useful to you in your role as a leader.


They might have a different opinion, or a different way of doing things than you expected. Instead of sticking with your stance, listen to what they have to say and then invite them to propose an alternative solution. More often that not, when you take this approach, you’ll catch the employee by surprise by valuing their input. You can even take it one step further and put them in a position of power with more responsibility.


There are two reasons why this can be the best way to manage difficult and challenging employees.


  1. It shows the person the difficulty of being in your position and that it’s easy to criticize the leader, when you aren’t the one in that position.
  2. The new responsibilities will keep them busy to the point where they can’t be a disruptive force in your organization.


Explain and Discover Why

Another thing you can do is explain to the disruptive employee the damage that they’re doing, not only to the organization but also the team and themselves. This is once again the power of why.


If someone isn’t completing their tasks on time or taking longer breaks, then you should explain to them that in doing that, they’re forcing their coworkers to pick up the slack. Many times, if they value their friendship with those team members, then the thought of letting them down might lead them to reconsider how they behave at work. On the other hand, you can also explain that such actions have been noted and will play a factor in the next performance review.


When taking this approach, you’ll want to also invite them to make a suggestion. Ask them why they feel the need to not turn their work in on time or take longer breaks. Ask them what they want to achieve and see if you can some up with an alternative. Sometimes, you could discover issues within your organization that need to be addressed. For example, If they feel there are too many meetings, then perhaps you need to restructure how you communicate and lead meetings.


Again, this is an incredibly effective method because if they feel that they’re being listened to, then they might be obligated to give a little more as well. In many cases, you might be able to successfully eliminate the problem altogether.


Avoid the Temptation

Of course the temptation here is to make an example of the disruptive employee but this will almost always work against you. It’ll make your team member feel victimized and it’ll create disharmony within your team that will ultimately be bad for business. What you can do though is to draw attention to the employees who are putting in more hours. You can make sure that they know that you’re aware of the difference between their work ethic and that of the disruptive team members.


One thing you must never do is to yell, get angry or get upset. If you’re ranting and raving at your team members, then you’ll be seen as a dictator. Along with making the team member you’re yelling at feel victimized, this continued behavior can result in members of your team eventually feeling the need to “stand up to you”. If you feel the need to raise your voice at your employees, what you’re doing is completely misunderstanding the terms of the agreement between you and your employees.




When you’re in charge of someone in a professional capacity, it only means that they agreed to work for your organization. If that agreement isn’t working, then either of you has the right to terminate at any time. Which is why at-will employment laws are in place in many professional environments. It doesn’t mean you have absolute authority of them, and you certainly don’t have the right to discipline them as you would a child. You might be their “superior” in terms of the hierarchy of your work environment, but in reality, you are equal.


Final Words

As a leader, you have a lot to manage and challenges to face during the course of your day. Building an all-star team can help take a lot of the pressure of managing a business off of your place. But, when the challenge is coming from the team itself, it can be a stressful experience as this is someone that you trusted to help in your role as a leader.


By following these techniques, you’ll be able to keep your cool managing that tough employee along with your other responsibilities. The easiest way to do that would be to have a clear set of rules and repercussions for not following those rules. For example: people caught leaving items incomplete will be required to spend additional time in the evenings and weekends.


When you have this in place, you won’t have to worry so much about discipline in the workplace because it’s clearly defined what happens if people aren’t doing what’s expected of them in their work. You can do what needs to be done when issues arise without making it personal, or having it seem unfair. You’ll simply be following an established procedure that the employee agreed to when they joined your organization.


To learn more about how you can practice everyday leadership to better handle challenging employees, click here.


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