As a manager, there are the things you can legislate and prepare for, and then there are the intangibles. Employees, as humans, will also be somewhat intangibles, meaning that their behavior – our behavior – can be unpredictable. It doesn’t matter how well you vet someone before you hire them, there is always the possibility that, at some stage in their employee tenure with you, there will be a difficult moment in which you need to manage.

How Managers Can Deal With Difficult Employees

Not always, of course. There are many employees who move from company to company never causing as much as a stir, but that is the nature of people. Here we want to talk about how managers can effectively deal with, or ‘manage’, difficult employees. What do you need to do?



Listening is the preventative measure of choice, and it can also be the cure – that is why it is the first item on this list. Many problems can be overcome simply by taking the time to listen to an employee. Disgruntlement, and hence problems, are often a manifestation of an employee feeling that they are not being listened to: by their colleagues, but most of all by management. As a manager, it is your responsibility to be a sounding board for your employees and to make yourself available to that end.

This will not always help, as there are those employees that you give an inch and they take a mile, but for the vast majority, a sensitive ear at the right time, followed by an actionable plan to solve the root of their issue, will be the most effective way to manage the situation. And don’t just factor in listening at those scheduled employee feedback and performance review sessions, it should be an ongoing process. Most Importantly, make it clear to your team that you are always available to listen should they wish to talk to you, and then practice what you preach.

Give consistent, and useful, feedback

Following on hot on the heels of listening is the provision of feedback. Not getting constructive feedback is a major bugbear of employees, and can often be pinpointed as the root cause of their disgruntlement. And giving constructive feedback always means giving balanced feedback: by concentrating only on the negatives you will quickly alienate your employees.

“A problematic employee will likely need constant reassurance as well as the negative-yet-constructive feedback you must provide. Yes, you need to see a change in behavior, but you must also decide upon an actionable plan (in conjunction with the employee) regarding how that is going to be achieved. That is constructive. Simply berating them for their attitude will have no impact whatsoever, and will only make things worse both in the short term and in the long run,” warns Alana Simone, an HR professional at Writinity and Last minute writing.

Document all communication

Document all communication

This is a really important step to take, particularly if things are to escalate at a later stage. In fact, documenting communication should be best-practice in your management of all employees – it can solve all manner of disagreements, no matter how minor. But if you sense that an employee is going to be problematic, the earlier you start to document all important dialogue between you, the easier it will be to manage the situation at a later stage.

For example, and this is a worst-case scenario – if you need to fire the employee, having a record of al communication leading up to that point can be significant in protecting yourself against any wrongful dismissal cases in the future.

But this is not just about protecting yourself against litigation. Documenting is the best way to ensure smooth processes, and it is often in the operation of those processes that minor issues can arise. And it is minor issues that can escalate. Having the right documentation procedures in place, and keeping a record of important dialogues between you, should help to ensure escalation does not occur.

Effectively manage your, and your employees’, time

Effective time management processes and workflow management systems can alleviate all manner of employee issues, simply because it makes their daily task-completion activities that much easier.

Effectively manage your, and your employees’, time

“Managing time effectively also manifests in employees not having to work late, as well as enjoying a structured day in which they can take the required amount of breaks and therefore not suffer from the stress of an over-busy schedule and too many work hours,” advises Paul Rogers, a careers blogger at Draft Beyond and Research Papers UK.

In order to help here, why not utilize a tool such as the RoundPie which can help you track your workflow (and that of your team’s) and integrates effectively with your current task management service. Not only can you effectively track the time you spend doing different tasks, you can increase productivity and the productivity of your team too by optimizing your time management approach.

Use a consistent approach

No employee will be left impressed if they feel your management technique is inconsistent, and you can be inconsistent in any number of ways. You could treat employees different (which is a major ‘no no’), or you could change the way you deal with one particular employee over a period of time (which leaves them feeling confused).

Whether an employee agrees with your style of management or not, and whether they respond to it or not (and it is always best remembering that you cannot please everyone all of the time), then the solution is to at least always be consistent in your approach and to be the same with everybody. In that way, no accusations of favoritism or prejudice can be seriously levelled at you (although some may still try, hence documentation is key).

One last point here: manage consistently within established company processes and procedures. As long as all staff are clear of those rules, and you always abide by them, then again there can be little reason for disgruntlement, and even less for blowback if things were to escalate.

About The Author:

Ashley Halsey is a Professional writer, marketing, management and recruitment expert Ashley Halsey can be found contributing her business insights at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, where she has established her reputation as an erudite and intelligent observer of business and recruitment trends.

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