Essential management when dealing with difficult workers

Just one problem employee can disrupt an otherwise smooth operation. 

Problem employees are so difficult to work with that many supervisors simply avoid them or attempt to take on those employees’ jobs themselves.

To avoid any trouble – especially the legal kind – supervisors need to be primed on strategies to tackle problem employees head-on. Here’s what your supervisors need to do:

  • Have a practice run-through. Difficult conversations aren’t pleasant. Managers can make them easier by planning what to say beforehand. Try to boil it down into the most essential, simple points – and then write those down.
  • Address the issue. How has the employee been acting? How has the situation affected the workplace? Be completely clear about the toll on morale and/or productivity. Phrases like “I need to be able to rely on you” and “We may be different, but we still need to get our jobs done” would work here.
  • Seek understanding. After explaining expectations, ask the employee to repeat, in his or her own words, what was just said. Don’t ever assume the employee automatically understands what’s expected.
  • Follow up. Assign tasks, both orally and in writing. Send e-mails regularly, asking for feedback and suggestions. Make it a habit to contact the employee to make sure he or she’s on the right track.
  • Focus on work. Don’t get caught up in petty slights or personality issues. Concentrate on communicating what needs to get done and by when. Remember, it’s a work problem.
  • Meet on their turf. Employees might feel threatened if they’re confronted in a supervisor’s office. Offer to meet with them in their office or in a neutral spot.

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