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  • Aryeh Brickner

How to deal with "difficult" employees. (You don't just ignore them!)


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to deal with a difficult manager, and boy did it resonate with a lot of people! A bit unfortunate that it did, but I hope the tips were helpful.


As managers we deal with difficult employees too. “Difficult” comes in a wide variety. There are those that are always negative, those who don’t listen to others, some constantly interrupt, and others who always seem to feel the need to involve themselves in things that don’t concern them. I am sure if I took a poll I would end up with a endless list of annoying employee habits! (Needless to say, but I will write it anyway, if you are dealing with an employee who is verbally or physically abusive there is literally zero grounds to tolerate such behavior)


How to deal with a difficult employee?


1. Tackle it as early on as possible. The longer a specific behavior carries on without being addressed, the harder it will be for someone to acknowledge the need for change. “What do you mean I am not open to new ideas, I have never heard that from anybody!”


2. Hear them out. People don’t always act on impulse. Maybe they feel nobody ever listens to them, so they’ve developed a habit of raising their voice to their co-workers. Maybe they aren’t trying to be negative, but they simply don’t know how to frame things in a more positive perspective.


3. Get their buy in. If there’s no agreement about whatever disruption they are causing, you’ll never get them to adjust their conduct. So, make sure you’re both on the same page about it.


4. Address the impact of their behavior. Say you have an employee who is always interrupting. Simply telling them to stop interrupting might not be enough. But if you explain why their interruptions are problematic and even detrimental to their career development you might have a greater chance at reaching them.


5. Don’t bad mouth them to the team and especially not in front of the team. Nobody ever likes being called out in public.


6. If you think they’ve done something to damage a relationship, encourage them to speak with the person in private about it.


7. Don’t play favorites. Don’t let specific employees get away with certain behavior while chastising others for the same thing.


8. Ask for help! Consult with other more experienced managers, HR, friends, on suggested ways to deal with the situation. One of the most common mistakes I see younger managers making is thinking they need to know how to handle every situation on their own. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of leadership.


9. Push comes to shove, give them the boot. One bad apple can cause a myriad of problems in an otherwise stellar team. Don’t think the other employee’s good vibes will overrides their negativity.


Dealing with a difficult employee can add unnecessary stress for a manager. So be managerial and handle the issue as quickly as you can!

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