Next Up – The Difficult Employee


My last post was about how to deal with the difficult or overly demanding manager – when is enough, enough. Sticky situation all the way around.  The more common situation is how do you manage difficult people.

As a manager for quite sometime, I have come across a few of those folks. Some that worked directly for me, some that I had to interface with quite frequently and some that I just happen to work with briefly.  I would like to share about five of my techniques with those situations.

  • Document everything!  I know, we all don’t like to document everything, but when you do – you will be better off because of it. As a new manager, I used to skip over the document part. I thought, well, we talked about this and that should be good enough. In a perfect world, probably, but this is not a perfect world. Memories get faded over time or even lost. Documenting everything is your record of exactly what was communicated, received and expected. When it comes to the court, if it isn’t written down, then it never happened. Take the time to document – it is your best friend in the long run. I have been doing this for quite some time and documentation has been my savior more than not.
  • Objective counts. When communicating your expectations and areas for where the employee needs to improve – you most certainly want to have the results be tangible. This way the employee can track their own performance as well.  Subjective accountability is left too open for interruption and could be misleading later on.  One word of caution, stay away from the ‘attitude’ references. Nothing smells more like subjective than describing someone’s attitude. Always focus on tangible objectives!
  • Be a role model. Be aware of how you are acting and reacting. You should be an example of what you would like the difficult person to be like. Look the person in the eye when talking to them! Not too much to seem intimidating, just enough to show how important this is. A normal everyday discussion – as if nothing was wrong. Treat the person as you would like to be treated. Who really is the better person in this situation? Act it.
  •  Ask questions like – “Everything okay or Is there anything I should know about?” Let them know that there has been a drop in performance, change in their overall performance or simply they are not themselves.  Opening up these discussions could lead you to something different than what is already in your head.
  • Follow-up in one on one’s. You have documented everything, you have focused on the objective results and you are helping with role modeling – you need to make sure that this is not a one time activity. Sit down and discuss how things are going, discuss the results to date, ask the person how they think they are doing. Don’t forget to document this too. The end goal is to have solid results and an employee that is producing and working within the team well.


Managing people probably more common sense than anything. When I first became a supervisor – it was because I was viewed a superstar at the tasks that I given to lead. That did not make me a good supervisor. I have had years of experience to help me develop a style and way of how I do things. Some mentors along the way to follow and some difficult managers that I used those examples as what not to do. I continue to learn and hopefully grow.

Do you have any tips or items you want to share?

  • This is one of the most informative posts I’ve read in awhile, I’ll be sure to add you to my favorites and include your feed in my google news reader. Thank you!