Sooner or later, all managers must deal with a difficult employee. What you need to remember is that a difficult employee is not necessarily a bad employee. All too often, people associate “difficult” with “bad.” This simply is not true. There are a lot of circumstances that could lead to difficult behavior such as stress at home or work, for example.
If you find yourself tasked with managing a difficult employee, consider the following six tips from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Alabama.
1. Evaluate The Issue — In other words, think before you act. One complaint is not reason enough to call an employee into your office for a verbal lashing. A clear understanding of the issue is required before you take any action. Consider all of the relevant factors, such as the people involved, and the details surrounding the situation.
2. Gather The Facts — Because the workplace is a social environment, there is bound to be rumors and hearsay—neither of which is reason enough to take action. As a manager and leader, your job is to be a mediator and assess the situation fairly by gathering the facts. Hearsay is unreliable and easily refuted. Evidence, on the other hand, is undeniable.
3. Develop A Plan — The workplace can’t be managed like the Wild West—you cannot go into a situation with “guns blazing.” This will only exacerbate things further. Having a plan will give you more control over the situation and help maintain order and focus. Carefully decide when and where you will speak with the employee, how you want the meeting to go, and whether others might need to be present.
4. Focus On The Problem — All too often we let one negative aspect of someone define the person entirely. This is a mistake. Just because someone is difficult does not mean they aren’t good at their job. When handling a difficult employee, you need to focus on the problem, not the person. Otherwise, the employee may feel like they are being personally attacked.
5. Hear Their Side — When speaking with a difficult employee, it is only fair to hear their side. Understanding the reasons behind difficult behaviors is crucial to remedying them. Your job, as mediator, is to find the common ground and figure out where and how you can smooth the wrinkles over. This requires having as much of an understanding about the factors surrounding difficult behavior as you can.
6. Come To A Solution — Ultimately, your goal is to come to an agreement with the employee on how to solve the issue; otherwise, it will continue to persist. The first step is for the employee to acknowledge the issue. From there, draw out a plan of action as to how it will be solved, and make sure you follow-up with the employee to ensure that change is maintained.
Remember, a difficult employee is not necessarily a bad employee, so focus more on the issue and less on the person. This helps prevent employees from feeling as though they are being personally criticized. As a result, they will be less resistant to working out whatever is causing their difficult behavior. Once you do agree upon a solution, be sure to periodically follow-up with the employee and praise them for their efforts.
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