7 Ways To Handle Difficult Employees

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Being a small business owner is tough, especially for women. We have to try harder to get the credit that we deserve. Lucky for us, it’s not as tough now as it would have been a few decades ago.

When it comes to making exigent decisions, we have to deal with the second guessing of our male counterparts. It comes with the territory though. One of those tricky decisions is how to deal with the inevitable “difficult employee.”

#1) Challenge Them

I spent a large amount of time at the head of various elementary school classrooms. I taught students ranging from first grade up to ninth. I have dealt with my fair share of difficult students (in addition to my fair share of difficult coworkers and employees). After comparing my different jobs and careers, I have realized that most of those difficult people just weren’t being challenged enough.

Not only did I challenge those students with extra “special” assignments (in subject areas that they were interested in) but I also gave them thoughtful and intelligent feedback. Not just “could show improvement” or “handwriting needs improvement” but comments specific to the student and their skills.

Difficult employees often benefit from being challenged as well. Don’t just give your best assignments to your “most well behaved” employees. Space them out evenly. Make sure to challenge your whole crew so that you can bring out the best in each and every employee.

#2) Don’t Dance Around

No beating around the bush. If an issue arises, make sure that you deal with it effectively, efficiently, and in a timely manner. Have performance objectives for everyone and if someone (like your difficult employee) falls short, hold a performance objective meeting where you can both discuss ways to effectively handle the short-coming (or whatever the issue may be).

#3) Don’t Only Focus On The Bad

I find that in many situations that involve more than one team member, we (as leaders) forget to praise troublemakers. If someone begins to develop an image as a “troublemaker” then we only see the bad things that they do. Make sure that when you are giving feedback, you are giving informative, productive, and positive feedback (whenever you can).

#4) Set Deadlines

One form of a difficult employee is an indecisive employee. These people tend to take forever to make decisions and have a tendency of revisiting the decision after it is made. While being cautious may be important, there is a time and place (and time sensitive projects are neither). In order to help these employees, make sure that you give them strict deadlines.

#5) Everything Is A Competition

There is a level of healthy competition that is necessary in order to achieve your goals but that line between healthy and unhealthy levels of competition is thin and gray.

If you have an extremely competitive employee, try to focus on team building exercises and emphasize a sense of family. Give everyone a reward for achieving a goal as a team rather than just individual victories. We strive together and we win together.

#6) Document, Document, Document

Document everything that you hear, witness, and talk about. It will come in handy if things come to ahead. Also, you can see if there is a pattern developing. Does this person tend to get edgy with his or her coworkers when it gets close to payday? Perhaps that means that there are monetary issues arising at home.

But this also serves as a handy tool that you can use in meetings (and don’t forget to document those meetings as well). If it comes down to it and you need to fire him, you can show him his performance record and your documentation of their attitude, behavior, actions, and other relevant information.

There are many different forms that you can fill out (if you want to be especially professional). There are free forms online and pads full of them at office supply stores. You want to make sure that you document these things in professional, objective (“Just the facts, ma’am.”) evaluations.

#)7 The Firing Squad

No one likes to fire people (well, I suppose that’s not necessarily true) and no one likes to be fired but sometimes it is necessary. Before you up and fire someone, make sure you have done all that you can to ensure this person’s success in your business. Here are some possible questions to ask before having that meeting:

“Did Joe have issues staying motivated? Was there something else that I could have done to help him?”
“Was Joe qualified to be in his position in the first place? Or was I asking too much of him?”
“Did I try to solve issues as they happened or did I ignore them? What else could I have done?”
“Was there a safety concern involved?”
“Could Joe succeed in a different position in this business?”


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