We all have one don’t we. What I mean is that somewhere in the department or the company there is an employee who is regarded as ‘difficult to deal with’. They are the employees who approach life with a ‘can’t do’ attitude; regularly waste time; rarely help others; and challenge every decision. They may not be the worst performer but experience tells me that if a manager was to rank his employees, the difficult to deal with one would be at the bottom of the rank order.
Of course there are different options available to deal with such people. Many managers are only aware of one and that is to put up with him or her because they fear the dreaded Employment Tribunal if they attempted the disciplinary route. But here is some advice on taking matters in hand and turning the individual around and aiding a less stressful work experience.
Avoid the long face mentality: Talk to long face staff. Ask them what is wrong. Seek suggestions which may make them (and everyone around them) happier. Agree items that can be agreed, confirm in writing and monitor regularly.
Rise above the fray: Don’t get screwed up by really obnoxious or provocative people who annoy nearly everyone. Call a meeting of everyone, maybe during a lunch break or at the end of the day and ask the obnoxious individual to explain to everyone why his or her behaviour is so difficult. The team are likely to give him or her a good going over and with luck, problem solved.
Appoint ambassadors for change: Take staff who embrace change and who are truly engaged and make them ambassadors and model employees and give them a remit to show the difficult employees what they should be doing and how they should be behaving. Often ‘peer pressure’ will do the trick.
Get to grips with gossip: Difficult employees often spread gossip to irritate or undermine other employees. Trace the gossip chain and when at source use the disciplinary procedure to address the matter. One formal warning should be enough to end the gossip and therefore avoiding upset employees.
Overcome fear of conflict: Many difficult employees survive because their manager is not confident enough to handle conflict. Confidence comes from good preparation (i.e. understanding the disruption you want to eliminate); meeting the employee and detailing the disruptive behaviour; avoiding arguments; and giving the employee ample time to think about the specific issue and to respond. This process often solves the problem.
Finally, if you still have disruptive employees and you need some further advice just call us at HR+ and we will be happy to help.
Dr Hugh Billot
Managing Director HR+ Limited
HR+ is a leading HR consultancy: for advice please call 01233 772431.
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