Working With Difficult Employees - Southwest EAP

Working With Difficult Employees

There will always be difficult employees. They aren’t difficult on purpose, because, clearly, if they realized how their behavior was jeopardizing their future, they wouldn’t behave in dysfunctional ways.

F. John Reh writes in his online piece Dealing With Difficult Employees That difficult employees “are that way simply because it is a behavior that has worked for them in the past.” They choose that behavior “when they think it will be most effective.”

So the challenge to the good manager is twofold: 1) to recognize what could be causing the poor performance, and 2) to let the employee know what behaviors need to occur so the employee can continue working. Until the manager gets a handle on both, the employee will repeat the troublesome cycle of bad behavior, followed by periodic crises and conflict in the workplace.

Interpreting at the behavior warning signs

Here are three examples of when a supervisor needs to intervene:

1. The employee is continually late, leaves early, or frequently calls in sick.

This can signal significant individual (or even group) problems. There may be a deficiency in training, poor leadership, or a variety of other problems., each of which is severely impacting the employee’s performance and motivation.

2. The employee’s performance and productivity has dropped significantly.

Performance is where ability meets motivation. The employee was hired on the basis of ability, so a lessening of motivation is most often the cause of poor performance. There may be other problems, and the manager needs to recognize symptoms ranging from burnout, frustration over policies and compensation, along with myriad other obstacles.

3. The employee is a chronic complainer, is negative and critical towards company policies, spreads rumors, or displays passive aggressive behavior towards fellow workers.

This is the difficult employee alluded to earlier who tends to behave in ways that make perfect sense to his or her world view. Once again, the key challenge to the manager is to convince the troublesome employee that the behavior is causing problems and needs changing.

Giving the necessary feedback to the employee

Personal confrontations and giving people feedback on how they need to change behavior on the job can be the most difficult part of any manager’s job. Erika Anderson writes in a Forbes Magazine online article, Why We Hate Giving Feedback– and how to Make it Easier, recognizes that that the manager’s job is to give corrective feedback “in a way that both reduces the other person’s defensiveness” and “makes it clear to the other person what you’re asking him or her to change.”

The Southwest EAP Employee Assistance Program fills the gap…

Knowing when to intervene and the techniques for counseling employees are just the first steps. Southwest EAP has the expertise and resources to help managers and supervisors deal with and resolve employee performance and morale problems. From employee counseling to management training and consulting, Southwest EAP provides 24/7 access for employees in crisis and unlimited consultation services for supervisors.

Want to find out more about how we can help your organization manage its valuable personnel assets? Contact us.