How to Deal With Difficult Workers
Nearly all managers have encountered a difficult employee in their organizations.There are two types of difficult workers. The first category is those workers who have skill-based performance problems. This category of difficult employees can be dealt with by providing coaching and training. For instance, a front office employee may become a difficult worker simply because he/she lacks customer service skills. Such workers can be dealt with by training them on the necessary skills relevant to their role. In turn, they will give back to the organization by being productive and motivated to stay with the company because they know how to succeed in their job (Brinkman & Kirschner, 2006).
The second category of difficult workers is those who face performance issues that cannot be remedied through training. Such employees may be rude, always late in reporting to work, have attitude problems or lack the ability to get along well with other employees. These are behavioral problems that cannot be dealt with through training. These type of workers are the most problematic to manage (Brinkman & Kirschner, 2006). In dealing with these employees, Osif (2005) suggests that the most important thing for managers is to confront the action and not the individual.
Regardless of the type of difficult employees, managers and supervisors should take control of such situations whenever they arise. Liff (2007)argues that one of the major reasons why managers and supervisors are always hesitant to deal with difficult workers is because the actions taken can easily spin out of control. Sooner than later, a difficult employee may take legal action against the company under regulatory,contractual, or statutory protections. This can place the manager in a defensive position. As a result, the manager or supervisor may spend more of his time addressing a worker’s complaints, and he may regret why he acted in the first place.
In dealing with difficult workers, it is recommended that supervisors or managers should tackle the problem immediately it occurs. The longer the problem remains unaddressed, the more complex it becomes, leading to more issues, additional complaints, more supervisors’ time spent on the problem and more employees are drawn into the situation. With nearly all difficult workers, the best strategy is to tackle the problem head-on as soon as possible. In some instances, a counseling session with the problem employee is sufficient in determining the main cause of the problem and come up with a mutually agreeable solution. However, some problems are much deeper and call for much strong action.Under these circumstances, an employee must understand that the organization`s management is serious and committed toward changing his/her behavior. The difficult employee or employees should be equally informed and sign a warning letter indicating that in the event that he/she fails to change the unacceptable behavior, the company will terminate his/her employment relationship.
Finally, dealing with difficult workers requires managers or supervisors to be effective in communication. Good communication techniques can improve on the manager-employee relationship and enhance employee productivity. A manager or a supervisor who does not know how to interact with the different employees under his control, can easily destroy team spirit and worsen the problems associated with difficult workers. Effective communication is central to addressing behavioral problems (Lilley, 2010). For example, one-on-one interaction between a manager and a difficult worker can help an employee attain a permanent change in behavior.
Brinkman, R. & Kirschner, R. (2006). Dealing with difficult people. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Liff, S. (2007).Managing government employees (1st ed.). New York: American Management Association.
Lilley, R. (2010).Dealing with difficult people. London: Kogan Page.
Osif, B. (2005). Manager’s bookshelf: Personality and the workplace: Difficult employees. Library Leadership and Management, 19(4), 212-217.