Training on How to Deal With Difficult Employees

Confront a difficult employee quickly to prevent long-term problems.
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Teamwork is critical in most companies. If your team includes one or more difficult employees who fails to work in a responsible or professional manner, the whole team could fail. Behavior such as gossip, slander or withholding information to gain an advantage can poison the entire team. Managers must deal with difficult employees in a prompt, businesslike manner to make sure the team moves in the right direction.


When evaluating a difficult employee, carefully perform due diligence in an unbiased way. Invite all team members to private one-on-one meetings to discuss the dysfunctional situation with no fear of retribution. Ask open-ended questions to encourage a thorough discussion. Document each employee's account of the situation carefully, and then compare employees' stories to look for similarities and differences in perceptions of the difficult employee behavior. Bring teams members back in, as needed, to discuss differences in the respective versions.


Request a meeting with the difficult employee, and include more than one member of your management team if possible. If there is more than one troublesome employee, confront each one individually. Document every team member's side of the story and compare these stories to those of other team members. Make a list of the offenses perpetuated by the employee and behavioral expectations of the employee using your company policy manual as a guide. Determine if the situation can be addressed with a mediation.


Start a mediation meeting with a positive evaluation of the team's successful steps to achieve its mission. Then set clear expectations as to how the meeting will be held. For example, allow only one person to speak at a time and accept no name-calling. Because the goal of this meeting is reconciliation, seek forgiveness and change among the team members. Carefully document all sides of the story and look for common ground. If the difficult employee seems contrite and willing to change, thank the employee and the rest of the team. Establish a plan with all involved parties to address any recurrences of the problem behavior, and carefully explain your expectations going forward. Schedule a followup meeting with all parties to ascertain that the situation has improved. Document every meeting in each employee's employment file.


Short-term contrition may give way to a relapse. Follow up with employees systematically, meeting individually with team members on a regular basis. If the situation seems to have been corrected, thank the involved parties and close the case after a reasonable amount of time. If the difficult behavior is merely a personality conflict between a few employees, consider reassigning the difficult employee to another team. If the employee resumes the difficult behavior and termination seems necessary, hold a meeting to give the employee a written warning.


If mediation or correction does not appear to be working, terminate the employee. Call the employee in for a meeting with two members of management present to document the dismissal. Explain clearly the employee's offenses in regards to company policy as detailed in your company policy manual, tell the employee that employment is being terminated and request that the employee sign termination papers. Conduct the meeting with as much privacy as possible.

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