Dealing With Difficult Employees


Difficult employees can come in all shapes and forms. They could be lazy, they could be unreliable or they could be causing conflict within the team. If these employees’ behaviour is not dealt with, it could start to damage the productivity and reputation of your business. However, you need to be able to deal with this behaviour in the right way as to not cause further problems. Here are just a few tips on how you can deal with difficult employees.

Confront the problem

The problem isn’t going to go away unless you confront it. Schedule a private meeting with the employee and tell them your concerns. Don’t be accusatory – remain calm and try to work with them to find a way to resolve the problem, whether it’s offering training to prevent them making mistakes or offering advice on how to get to work on time if they’re constantly late. If the problem is a conflict between two employees, you may have to schedule a meeting with both employees individually.   

Allow time to improve

Unless the employee has done something unforgivable (such as stealing from a till), you should give the employee time to improve after confronting the problem. Firing an employee for being late a couple times without giving them time to correct their tardiness will likely result in more conflict (they may sue you for not giving them enough warnings or adequate reasoning for dismissal). People can chance and need to be given chances.

Document continued behaviour and give warnings

If an employee continues to take off unjustified sick days or continues to bully employees, you should then start documenting the behaviour and giving them warnings. This could help them to become more aware of the severity of the situation and they may then change their ways. If they continue the behaviour after repeated warnings, you then have the grounds and evidence to take disciplinary action – whether it’s demoting them or dismissing them.

Know when to get legal support

Some employees may fight back and put the blame for their behaviour on you. This may be justified if you’ve not been treating them fairly or it could completely unjustified. Either way, you may need to consider hiring professional help in order to defend yourself. A law firm such as Tully Rinckey may be able to help you if an employer is threatening legal action. It’s often possible to diffuse a problem early before it comes to the point of being sued.

Take measures to prevent hiring difficult employees in the future

You can avoid dealing with difficult employees in the future by looking out for tell-tale personality traits while hiring. You may be able to come up with situational questions or tests in the interview to get a better idea of someone’s personality. Alternatively, you could allow them to do a trial shift at your company – this could allow you to see how well they get on with your team, as well as getting an idea of how motivated they are to work. This guide at Entrepreneur offers more advice on how to avoid a bad hire.