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Supervising difficult employees? Mend it, don’t end it

by on
in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

boss disciplining employeeIt’s a fact—some employees are more difficult to manage than others.

Because many disruptive workplace situations are uncomfortable to handle, they’re often ignored or mishandled by managers. The result: a slow wearing-down of employee morale.

Rather than ignoring tough situations or automatically getting rid of “difficult” employees, it’s better to learn techniques to effectively manage those situations.

Here are tips on handling four of the more common scenarios:

1. Prima donnas

Problem: An employee is so full of himself that he believes the rules don’t apply to him. He ends up hurting or alienating co-workers and driving you crazy. Solutions:

  • Look for clues in interviews to avoid hiring those types in the first place.
  • Confront the employee. Discuss it in terms of it being a performance/behavior issue, rather than a personality issue.
  • Determine the motivation behind his failure to follow the rules.
  • Define the specific changes you expect, and then hold him to it.
  • Give him more responsibility. These are typically bright people. They want to be challenged.
  • Force him to work on teams or, alternatively, let him be a “lone ranger” worker.

2. Chronic absenteeism

Problem: An employee is constantly tardy or frequently absent. Solutions:

  • Define your expectations. Communicate the importance of regular and timely attendance. Explain the effect of his absence or tardiness on co-workers, production, morale, etc. Then, spell out the potential consequences, e.g., does he realize he can be fired if this doesn’t change?
  • Understand there may be circumstances that cause people to be late. Realize that certain laws give people the legal right to take leave for medical issues or family illnesses. Talk to HR if you have questions.

3. ‘Misfits’ for the job

Problem: An employee is obviously not fit for her job, both skills and personality-wise. Solutions:

  • Determine the cause of the mismatch. Examine your own role in the situation. No one succeeds or fails in a vacuum.
  • Communicate your concerns. Counsel the person on actions he could take to fit in better. Let him vent his frustrations.
  • Assess whether he’d be a better fit elsewhere in the company. Just because someone is a misfit in your department doesn’t mean he can’t work well in a different one. Don’t forget the reasons why you hired him in the first place.

4. ‘Personal’ workers

Problem: An employee wastes time on Facebook, the Internet, emailing friends and personal calls. Solutions:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t base actions on hearsay. Work with IT. Confront the employee one-on-one. Bring the company policy. Be direct.
  • Find out what is causing the slack off. Does he not have enough work? Has he “checked out” and lost interest in the job? Is he facing personal problems? Actively listen.
  • Get the employee to acknowledge that the behavior runs counter to company policy and your expectations, and that it must cease  immediately. Then follow up.

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