When you start running your own company or take on a leadership role, you’re going to have to work with many different types of people. No matter how great a job you do or how fair you are, it’s likely you’ll ruffle some feathers of your employees, especially if you have one who’s innately difficult to work with. You cannot simply fire someone who you dislike working with if they haven’t done anything more than be unpleasant or commit minor transgressions, so it can be frustrating trying to figure out how to handle a belligerent employee. It can be damaging to your job if you have to spend excessive time worrying about and managing said employee. Here are a few ways you can learn to work with them and make life easier on you.
Try to understand the situation
The first step to take when dealing with a difficult employee is attempting to understand the situation. You never know what someone is going through in their personal life. So, if this employee is acting different from normal or experienced something negative in their life, they may not be a genuinely difficult person and are just trying to process whatever’s going on. Even if they aren’t struggling, thinking about the situation from the difficult employee’s point of view makes dealing with the situation easier because you can understand how they may view what’s happening and how they’ll react.
Start giving feedback
Your first step to working with a difficult employee should be actually giving constructive feedback. Carefully think about whether or not you’ve tried to offer the employee quality advice on their behavior and attitude. If you haven’t, avoid being confrontational and give feedback as you would with any employee. It’s possible they do not realize they’re behaving in an unacceptable manner and giving constructive ways to do something differently could help the situation.
Avoid complaining about them
Even if your employee continues their insufferable behavior, avoid complaining about them at work. If you really need to vent, do so at home to your family or a close friend or approach HR with a few concerns. Complaining about this employee to other managers or employees makes you look bad and can create a toxic work environment.
Be direct and professional
Eventually, you’ll need to be direct with the employee about their attitude. Rehearse what you plan on saying beforehand and write down some thoughts. When you finally talk to them, be professional and direct about the situation. Tell them exactly what’s inappropriate about their behavior and lay out ways it can changed. Give them an opportunity to discuss any issues they see and try to be open to criticisms they may have. Avoid putting them on defense or getting angry because it’ll only make the situation worse.
Know when drastic measures are necessary
If the situation doesn’t improve even after you try to speak with the employee, it’s finally time to consider more drastic steps. If the employee’s behavior is affecting office culture, their work, and your job, it’s time to directly speak with HR and begin issuing an official warning or even terminating the employee. Throughout your efforts to get along with the employee, make sure you’re documenting any incidents that occur, the steps you’ve taken to fix the problem, and conversations the two of you have had. When possible, get as much in emails as possible, such as sending a follow-up email after you speak with the employee and issue warnings.