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5 Steps for Dealing With Any Problem Employee

No matter how much experience as a manager you have dealing with difficult people is a problem that can frustrate even the most seasoned manager. Each employee comes with their own unique set of challenges that blends into the workplace differently. No matter what the employees reasoning behind their behavior workplace morale and productivity can suffer. Taking contemporaneous notes of behavior that disrupts the work environment is a key part in working with difficult people.

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There are many varieties of difficult people and it’s nearly impossible to find a workplace without their share of difficult employees. When working with difficult people you may find that they come in every conceivable variety. Some examples of these varieties are as follows:

Time and Attendance

Every workplace has at least one employee which is known to be consistently late. They always have a variety of different reasons and excuses to explain away their tardiness and find reasons to take extra days off work. Be sure to take contemporaneous notes of each tardiness and absence should the attendance problems ever escalate into a bigger problem.

The Know It All

This type of coworker is the go to person when you don’t have the answer to a problem. So what exactly is the problem with having a coworker that can help you get work done? The problem is the know it all isn’t open to new ideas, collaborating, or other opinions. On top of this a know it all tends to be a bad listener and avoids taking responsibility for mistakes. You will never hear a know it all say the words “I don’t know”.

The Talker

Every workplace has at least one employee who can ramble on about everything from what they have planned this weekend to sharing part of their life story. Having one of these problem employee types can greatly bring productivity down and having multiple of this type can result in spending extra time dealing with difficult people. For this type of employee taking contemporaneous notes of conversations and extensive amounts of time spent talking is important for managing employee performance.

Less Common But Equally Difficult Types

The above mentioned employee types are very common. In larger workplaces it’s easy to find at least one of the above mentioned problem employee types. As you continue working with difficult people you’ll find that there are less common types that can be easily found in the work environment. These less common but equally difficult types are as follows:

Getting the Last Word

This type of problem employee wants to be in the spotlight and is always looking for ways to make themselves look better than their coworkers. A simple conversation can turn into a struggle as they always look for mistakes and ways to bring others down.

The Confronter

The confronter is a type of employee that always lets you know what’s on their mind. They can be stubborn, unhelpful, and rude. This type of employee doesn’t hesitate to complain and may even refuse to do work.

The Spotlight Hog

This type of employee is constantly getting recognized for a job well done and will compete with others for the spotlight. They won’t hesitate to spotlight your mistakes while cover up their own to make sure they can stay in the spotlight longer.

The Whiner

When working with a whiner you may find yourself met with sighs and the occasional complaint. A whiner is less confrontational than a confronter but you may still find they have a lower than normal work productivity.

The Effects of Not Dealing With Problem Employees

Working with difficult people is a part of any workplace environment. No matter what type of problem employee you find yourself dealing with, every type has one thing in common. You must deal with them. The first step in dealing with any problem employee is to take contemporaneous notes of events right after they occur. If you don’t deal with negative employees you may see the following in your workplace:

  • Poor morale
  • Lowered productivity
  • Higher employee conflicts
  • Poor teamwork
  • Additional stress
  • Higher turnover
  • Loss of customers
  • Loss of income

Solving Issues With Problem Employees

If left unaddressed your problems won’t get better. Without addressing these issues it’s more likely that things will get worse rather than get better. Dealing with difficult people isn’t easy but it’s necessary. Maintaining contemporaneous notes of key incidents to go over with your problem employees will help you find the best approach to solving problem behaviors. Taking notes contemporaneously means that you will be able to recall more detail and be more prepared when speaking with your problem employees. No matter what type of problem employee you find yourself dealing with you can take the following five steps of action to resolve the issue.

Analyze and Determine the Problem

When you begin noticing any ongoing results or changes in your employees the first thing you need to do is ask yourself one very important question. Are these issues due to poor job performance or are they a problem employee? Taking contemporaneous notes of your observations and key events that you’ve noticed will help you determine if the root cause of your problem is poor job performance or due to behavioral flaws that must be addressed. This is key as poor job performance and behavioral issues have different methods to resolve them.

Confront the Issue Immediately

Whether the root cause of the problem is poor job performance or a behavioral issue you must confront the issue as soon as possible. Waiting increases the chances that things may escalate into a more difficult situation. When talking to the employee be sure to do so in a private area so they can feel comfortable enough to open up to you. Make sure to have your contemporaneous notes easily available so you can recall specific events that cannot be denied. Don’t simply send them a letter or email as this will likely make them feel angry and indignant at the fact that you didn’t take the time to address the issue with them face to face.

Be Clear

When dealing with difficult people you need to take extra care into being as clear as possible. Be specific about your concerns and take the time to really listen to the employee as well. Repeat back what was said so you can allow the employee to confirm you heard what they said or give them opportunity to refine the message. After important points have been said ask “Am I making sense?” to give the problem employee a chance to ask questions and clarify things. When meeting with a problem employee be sure to communicate the consequences for their actions if behavior doesn’t change and further steps to correct the behavior. Take contemporaneous notes of your meeting to ensure that important information is saved and recorded for when you have another meeting with your problem employee.

Outline Steps of Corrective Action

Many times difficult people are difficult because a manager hasn’t taken the time to talk with them about their behavior and gone over how to change their behavior. There are some people who will find changing old behavior very difficult and others who will easily work on problems if they’re just made aware of them. Assure your employee that they’re not in danger of losing their job and that you’re there to help them create a better working environment. Create a summary of your meeting from contemporaneous notes taken during the meeting to give to the employee and place a copy of the document in their file as well.

Follow Up

Following up doesn’t always mean taking the time to schedule another appointment. Compliments and encouragement are two easy ways to follow up without having to carve out time to speak with a problem employee. By complimenting and encouraging the employee you’re essentially telling them that you’re monitoring the situation and that the potential for follow up is still likely. When dealing with difficult people there should always be some form of follow up. Whether that form of follow up exists as an occasional compliment or scheduling a meeting every 6 weeks to go over problem behaviors and how they’re being worked on, there must be some form of follow up for all your problem employees.

Always Be Ready

Supervisors and projects managers have to be on the lookout for any issues that they must address. On top of keeping an open door policy to allow employees to come in and express themselves, supervisors must play an active role in looking out for problem employees. Doing so means that they will create a more positive working environment, improve workplace morale and productivity while lowering turnover and reducing stress. By taking contemporaneous notes of important events and following the steps outlined above you will decrease the chances of having to terminate problem employees and instead work towards improving individuals and the work environment as well as improve your skills as a supervisor. Improving your skills as a supervisor means that you will be more prepared to handle different types of problem employees and experience less frustration in the workplace.







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