How To Deal With Troublesome Workers

How To Deal With Troublesome Workers

Human resource managers say no matter how good a recruitment process is, companies are likely to have difficult employees now and then. When this happens, they say it is up to managers to deal with them. 

Some employees are just difficult. They are arrogant, cynical, disrespectful, argumentative and pushy, among other things. As a manager, Human Resource experts say all managers get to deal with such employees at one point or the other in the course of their careers. So what do you do, fire them? Not so fast. That is because as a manager, HR managers, say it is your responsibility to deal with them.

But how do you go about that when they feel they are being unfairly singled out and victimized? Why do they act the way they do? They are many theories about why an employee may be difficult. Some HR managers say it is down to the environment – the company’s atmosphere and policies. Others say no matter how appropriate the atmosphere and policies are, some employees will still be troublesome. One thing they agree upon is that before you consider the option of terminating their employment, as their manager, you need to ensure that you understand why they act the way they do and that you are not the cause. When faced with a difficult employee, try the following:


According to experts, no matter the urgency with which you may be required to deal with a problematic employee, the first thing is for you to review the situation. They say you have to think before you act as failure to do this will only worsen matters because you are likely to approach the employee wrongly. Evaluating the situation or problem properly is important because every action you take sends a signal to other employees.

Through your evaluation you will be able to determine if there is truly a problem or if it is just one of those things that are likely to happen now and then. You have to also take into consideration the nature of the job and the level of pressure under which your team has to work. Could the problem have been triggered by the atmosphere and the company’s policies? All of these are important.

Rise above sentiments

Some employees will always act like victims and some as ‘good guys’. Both sets of employees are categorised by some experts as troublesome employees. So when the ‘good guys’ feed you with information about the others, experts say there is need for you to ensure that you do not take decisions without verification. According to them, it is important that you base your actions on facts and that you always rise above sentiments as a manager. So, when next the ‘victim’ come to you with a complaint about how unfairly everyone else is treating them, don’t just decide to ‘defend the defenseless’ by protecting him. Find out first if that is truly the case. One way you can rise above sentiments and base your action on facts rather than gossip or narratives is by ensuring that you always carry out some form of investigation and get your own facts. Failure to this will mean that you have become a part of the problem.

Try to understand

As explained above, in dealing with difficult employees, you risk getting emotional because there will be a lot of sentiments involved. This is the reason why you need to personally understand what is going on. How come you are receiving negative reports about an excellent employee all of a sudden? And even when you witness the attitude yourself, HR experts say there is still need for you to try to understand the reasons for the sudden outburst or change in attitude. Ask questions and listen to the answers, get all the views and then you will be in a better position to take a decision.

Come up with a plan

So you have evaluated the situation and you are sure that you have not been sentimental about it. You are also convinced that having listened attentively and asked relevant questions, you understand what is going on; an employee is being difficult. What next? Experts say you need a plan, a course of action.

If you have decided to talk to an employee, you have to determine the when, where and how. What exactly are you going to say to them? Do you need witnesses? Should it be a formal mail or just a private confrontation? When you go to ‘war’ without a plan, it is agreed that are likely going to end up fighting a losing battle.

Deal with the problem

Some managers, even after they have realised that an employee is troublesome, assume that the problem will just go away. Some keep waiting for an ‘undefined’ appropriate moment. But experts warn that failing to deal with the problem promptly, may aggravate it. They argue that one way or the other you will have to do it anyway, because it is your responsibility and failure to keep your team in check can cost you dearly. So deal with it. In dealing with the situation, HR Managers say it is also important that you focus on the problem and not the employee. They explain that there is a different between a bad attitude and a bad employee. If an employee is aggressive for instance, you can talk about how aggression is not suitable or acceptable in the organisation rather than telling the person to change.

Do not relent

According to experts, it is not enough for a manager to talk to an employee once and give up when the expected changes do not occur. They stress that some employees simply do not know what they are meant to be doing while some others have developed certain habits over the years. It will therefore require more than just one 10 minutes talk to get the employee on the right track. This is very important when you are dealing with an employee that gets the job done despite all the trouble. Experts say you stand a lot to gain if you can manage that person and resolve the problem. So, try for a while longer. Learn to be patient, and keep your expectations reasonable. If you truly understand the problem, this should not be a problem.

Know when it’s beyond you

You have been told to understand and to be patient, but there is a limit to all of that. According to experts, some employees will always be troublesome no matter what you do. It is important to know when you are dealing with such an employee, and to take the necessary steps, which may ultimately end with termination of the person’s employment.

Learn to let go

If you handle things right, experts say more often than not, you will resolve the problem. When this happens, you need to move on. Many managers make the mistake of bearing a grudge and this neither helps you nor the employee.


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