How to deal with a difficult employee

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Managing difficult staff is one of the biggest challenges you will face as an employer. They can disrupt the working environment which is detrimental to your business. Poor workplace culture guarantees a poorly performing business in the long run. As the business owner, it is your responsibility to produce the right culture and constantly address, refine and refresh it.

always Address issues quickly

Fundamental to getting the right culture and dealing with difficult staff is knowing that it is a partnership, not an ‘us and them’ attitude that will transform the environment.

Handling difficult staff is more of an ‘art’ than a set of strict rules. Here are some key methods which can be applied across all situations:

TIP 1: Address issues quickly. Don’t let situations get out of hand.
TIP 2: Reflect on what is really going on with the person at hand. By seeing the bigger picture, you may discover what the real issue is. Fixing the problem is far more effective than just covering it with a band aid.
TIP 3: Before you take action, ask yourself is this person a key influencer? Do they have a required skill set in your business? What is their value to you?

hire slow and fire fast!

Is this issue a short-term challenge which has been going on for less than three months? If yes, what has changed in their work ecology? Ask if there is another person involved or are there passive aggressive hidden behaviours going on? Are there personal issues that are contributing? Has their work load or requirements changed? It may be more than one issue. A gentle enquiry process of listening and asking quality questions will reveal the answer without undue pressure.

Short term issues are easier to fix. It is critical to be empathetic and stand in their shoes to see what is going on. Once you have built rapport and trust, create an action plan with regular reviews to support the person. Promises about what will change need to be made to show that you are trustworthy. This in return will increase the levels of productivity in the workplace.

no one is irreplacable

If it is a longer ongoing history of disruption and dissatisfaction on their part and the action plan above did not solve the issue, remember no one is irreplaceable ever. As the business owner, you are able to let staff ‘deselect’ and leave the business in a way that creates opportunity to do things differently. If they aren’t a good fit for a team, it relieves pressure immediately for everyone involved.

Remember ‘hire slow, fire fast’. It’s a game changer.

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Millie Swann
Millie Swann is an executive business change strategist and leadership mentor to CEOs, executive decision makers and people who are specialists at what they do.

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