Posted by Matt Swistak at

As a manager, there will be times when you have to deal with difficult employees. Rather than ignoring the problem, face it head-on to maintain an effective work environment. Follow these tips to manage challenging employees.

  • Evaluate Employee Behavior

Observe the employee in various settings to determine which behaviors bring discord into situations. Watch how co-workers respond to the employee. Determine one or two behaviors that co-workers have brought to your attention. Privately speak with the employees involved to gather more information.

  • Create a Plan

Using your observations and co-worker discussions, create a plan for dealing with the employee’s behavior. For specific behavior modification, come up with a coaching plan. If the employee needs additional skills training, create a skills development program. Determine what your desired outcome and timeframe are and prepare your discussion accordingly.

  • Focus on the Behavior

Confront the employee about their behavior as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the worse it will get. Focus on developing a solution for changing the behavior rather than attacking the employee. Keep in mind the behavior may result from fear, confusion, lack of motivation or personal issues rather than harmful intent.

  • Uncover Reasons for the Behavior

Actively listen to what the employee says. Remain calm and positive. Ask open-ended questions to gather additional details. Respond in a calm manner. Summarize what you believe the employee is saying to show you want to understand their viewpoint. Finding the source of the behavior will help you create a solution.

  • Develop a Solution

Work with the employee on developing a solution. Allowing them a say in finding an answer increases their willingness to change their behavior. Point out exactly what needs to stop and what more appropriate behavior looks like. The employee will have a clearer understanding of what needs improvement and what steps they can take to create the desired outcome.

  • Explain the Consequences

Determine what the employee cares about most, such as the ability to work remotely or earn a bonus, and let them know those things can be taken away if the behavior doesn’t change.

  • Regularly Follow Up

Be patient and give the employee a reasonable timeline for implementing the changes. If the bad behavior recurs, privately talk with the employee and remind them what steps to take to get back on track.

  • Document Everything

Establish a pattern of behavior, the steps you took to address it, the resources you provided and the employee’s response. Include complaints, relevant information from performance reviews and other materials. If you need to let the employee go, you want to show why you made that decision.


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