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How to Manage Your Difficult Staff Members

Learning to manage difficult staff members

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We hope you find this article helpful when it comes to managing difficult staff members. Let’s face it, it is easy to work with like-minded people. When moving ahead and establishing room for innovation and creativity, we need to be open to diversity and allow for different types of personalities in our employees.

Having numerous staff of different cultures, backgrounds, values and personalities makes efficient and effective leadership and management skills more important than ever.

A situation in which “incompatible goals, attitudes, emotions or behaviours lead to disagreement or opposition for two or more parties” is defined as conflict.

Do you, as a manager, find it challenging and confronting to have difficult conversations with under-performing staff or with employees who are disruptive in the workplace?

6 examples of difficult employees

Here are some real-life examples of challenging behaviour from employees that you may be facing and need to resolve.

1: Constantly late – This employee seems to have a valid excuse each time. However, this problem should be addressed as early as possible or it could lead to more employees disobeying office regulations or causing those who follow the rules to become uneasy as they might think there is favouritism going on if this behaviour is excused.

2: Resentful – for being passed over for promotion, (he/she thinks they should be the manager) – A disgruntled and possibly jealous employee should be handled with care, as this person may find ways to undermine your authority by spreading gossip or rumours.

3: Distracted – constantly making mistakes – This may have been an employee who presented themselves well in the past but is currently making numerous mistakes. It would be unwise to ignore or overly sympathise in this case. The employee can only get the help they need if the issue is addressed and they are held accountable.

4: The victim/ complainer – This employee will blame others if the project is not completed on time or if a problem occurs.

5: Wants control – This employee will take over every project but will not be able to deliver and in addition causes others in the team to feel disheartened.

6: The socialiser – This employee is usually very friendly and likes to chat with everyone but depends on others to do the work. If this behaviour is not corrected quickly, it will cause the rest of the team to feel demoralised as they work hard while the socialiser gets a free ride.

Costs of negative employee behaviours

Costs of negative employee behaviour

What are the costs of these negative behaviours on your team and organisation? Negative and challenging behaviour that is not addressed effectively and efficiently could lead to:

Increased stress in employees: A supportive workplace that is well managed can help to lower the stress that staff feel.

According to SafeWork Australia, psychological injuries which are work-related mental health conditions have grown to be “a major concern in Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work.”

Annually, the number of Australians compensated for work-related mental health conditions is 7,200, which equates to about 6% of workers’ compensation claims, approximating $543 million paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions.

The productivity level is lowered: When problem behaviour is ignored by the manager, it then causes staff to take it upon themselves to try and solve the problem, instead of focusing on the tasks they are set to complete.

Absences: Handling colleagues who can be difficult to deal with on a constant basis can increase the rate of unexplained absences and sick leave and be a source of a toxic work environment.

Staff replacement: Productivity is lessened when one staff member leaves and a new employee is hired and on-boarded. A negative impact on employee morale and organisational culture develops, especially when high performing and effective contributors leave.

This places greater stress on other staff members and management who are asked to cover the workload of the person who has left. Overtime expenses may be incurred as current staff are needed to cover the additional workload. The loss of embedded knowledge also needs to be accounted for.

Employer brand is tarnished: Organisations want to increase their revenue through good business sense, image and reputation. Employees who are not up to the standard of delivering effective customer service or who speak badly about the organisation will result in customer dissatisfaction, which leads to a loss in customers and revenue.

Productivity can be increased by cultivating employee loyalty and developing job satisfaction. To boost employee engagement, performance management must be conducted successfully.

5 recommendations for managing your difficult team members

recommendations for managing your difficult team members

The following 5 management recommendations can be employed to prevent issues from forming and as a method of improving effectual and successful staff management:

1: Regular, consistent meetings with staff

As a manager, leadership skills are essential to ensure that the entire team works well together. Being a successful communicator, including having effective listening skills, is essential.

When employees know that the team is being well managed and that there is a clear direction and a successful role model to follow, they will be able to focus on their work with all their energy and not be distracted with having to deal with challenging behaviour from their colleagues.

Having regular, consistent and purposeful conversations with employees that you manage will prove to be beneficial. It is only through these conversations that you will gain your employees’ trust, and where the decision and action for coaching or counselling can be taken.

2: Motivating staff

Assessing direct measures of intrinsic motivation and engagement is likely to produce valuable results for mid to late career employees (Kordbacheh, Shultz & Olson, 2014). Intrinsic motivation arises from the self-generated factors which influences one’s behaviour.

As a manager, it is valuable to know what motivates the talent hired and what, when and how to use various rewards and motivation. Extrinsic motivation includes incentives, increased pay, praise, promotions, disciplinary action or criticism (Armstrong, 2012).

3: Building a strong team

When building a strong team, all members of the team should be heard and roles established for contribution to the project according to team members’ strengths and weaknesses.

Psychological safety at work can be achieved through peer coaching and it could substitute gossiping with important conversations, creating a culture that encourages significant interpersonal relationships (Caporale-Berkowitz & Friedman, 2018).

4: Conflict management

Conflict management styles include avoiding, accommodating, competing, compromising, and collaborating. All five styles are useful in different types of situations.

The avoid style can be used when the issue is insignificant or is part of a bigger issue that will be better addressed using another style.

The accommodating style is used to preserve relationships and harmony and allows others to develop by learning from their mistakes.

The competing style is appropriate for emergencies, when quick, decisive action is required and to enforce rules and discipline.

The collaborative style is useful in merging insights from people with different perspectives.

Finally, the compromising style is appropriate for when collaborative and competitive styles prove unsuccessful and there is a time constraint to arrive at a solution quickly.

5: Conducting effective performance appraisals

Performance appraisals differentiate between the high and low performers, develop and reward employees and offer a useful way to give feedback to employees.

When an performance appraisal is fair and well documented, it will encourage hard working employees to perform better and hold under-performing employees accountable, who can face disciplinary procedures or termination if necessary.

Developmental needs and transfers within the company can also be derived from the outcome of the performance appraisal.

Bonus recommendation: Professional development

Professional development motivates staff and it is a necessary investment to make, especially for middle managers who will benefit from management training, emerging with confidence to use new insight and enhanced leadership and negotiation skills to provide successful leadership and management.

Conclusion to managing difficult staff members

Ultimately, effective managers need to have the skills and knowledge to prevent issues and challenging behaviours from occurring. However, once these difficult behaviours manifest, they should be addressed promptly and appropriately. Reasons that might prevent a manager from doing so could be the fear of having difficult conversations with employees.

In addition, not employing the most effective conflict negotiation skills at the appropriate time or situation can also cause an initially manageable issue to get out of hand and lead to more unnecessary stress on many different individuals.

Managers can use ethical theories to assist them in making the right decisions. Ethical theories can be rule-based, character or consequential. Developing cross-cultural sensitivity training, cultural task forces and global human resource management is critical to the success of organisations in this current work climate.

Thank you for reading this article, your comments and insights are welcome.

Please also check out our full list of managerial courses

The Aptitude Team

Aptitude Management is a corporate training provider operating throughout Australia. We provide public workshops and inhouse programs specifically designed for middle managers. We can be contacted on 1800 753 087.
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