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How to Cope with Difficult Employees in the Workplace

How to Cope with Difficult Employees in the Workplace

No matter how many exemplary employees an IT manager oversees, there always seems to be at least one difficult worker in the mix. Perhaps they are able to fulfill their duties, yet somehow they still manage to be problematic.

They may fall into one of the most common types of difficult employees such as “The Ghost” who is never around, or “The Hisser” who becomes a bully when provoked. Even if an employee has their own unique blend of difficult personality traits outside of the common types, there are still steps you as a manager can take to manage them and prevent future negative personalities from growing under your watch.

The Root Cause of Problem Employees

Problems with employees usually arise because managers don’t set expectations from the beginning. They don’t establish or enforce behavioral parameters with each new hire. Or, if a new manager arrives, they don’t do the same with their new team.

It’s no secret that problem employees can have a huge negative impact on company morale. The resulting disengagement will almost certainly impact your firm’s bottom line. Low morale can translate into high turnover, which will affect a company’s revenue. Nationwide each year, low worker engagement is estimated to cost U.S. businesses between $250 and $300 billion in lost productivity. Those are numbers that are hard to ignore, and action must be taken to mitigate these costs.

Dealing with Difficult Employees

There are several ways to deal with difficult employees while not affecting your turnover rate. Pay extra attention in listening to an employee when they start being problematic; simply ignoring them and hoping they correct their own behavior would be a mistake. Talk to them right away to try and find the root cause of this change in their conduct, as sometimes it may be something small that can easily be addressed before it spirals out of control. Be sure to give the employee clear feedback on appropriate workplace behavior and how they have stepped outside of the lines.

Document the behavior and your discussion with the employee so that you and future managers can see if a pattern develops down the road. You must be consistent in reprimanding the problem behavior should it continue to occur. Additionally, be clear as to any consequences for such continued behavior.

When dealing with a difficult employee’s inappropriate behavior, never bad mouth them in front of others, especially their coworkers.  Manage your own frustrations, and don’t let them manifest themselves into negative language or a raised voice. Such actions on your behalf could actually compound the problem and cause the employee to further their newfound negative tendencies.

Fostering a Culture That Mitigates the Growth of Difficult Employees

The most important action you can take to minimize the growth of difficult employees is to be proactive. Creating a high-performance culture will provide a strong and clear foundation that limits negative behavior. To achieve this environment, begin by clearly explaining a new hire’s role within their team and delineate goals for their department. Show each employee a path down which they can contribute to the organization’s success.

It cannot be stated enough: communication is paramount in preventing difficult employee behavior. Whether it is written newsletters, group emails, or brief weekly check-ins, regular informal communication will ensure that an employee is heard, feels valued, and prevents small concerns from being bottled up and exploding in poor workplace actions.

Encourage continuous learning in the workplace in order to create an environment where an employee will be comfortable admitting they are unsure of how to perform a task or lack sufficient technical knowledge. A culture of openness will prevent frustration in the long run as employees will not feel the need to hide their performance, which can be a factor leading to negative behavior.

Enacting an employee appreciation strategy is another key step in mitigating the growth of difficult employees. Not only are 81% of employees motivated to work hard when they feel appreciated, but it can also boost morale tremendously. Employee appreciation plans of action do not need to be daunting. Even a small program that is easy to enact will have an exponential impact on limiting behavioral problems in your work environment.

Moving Forward

By recognizing the root cause of difficult behavior, correcting current conduct, and taking positive steps moving forward, you can create a company culture that is filled with positive workers. With great tech workers becoming harder to find, it is increasingly important to promote a constructive and encouraging environment.

If you need assistance adding a positive employee to your team, CyberSearch can help you find a skilled IT pro quickly. Contact us today.

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