Far from attempting to control an employee, but depending on the level of management you might belong to, you will have more or less of actual human contact with your subordinates. For example, low-level managers spend most of their time in direct communication with their team members, while the C-level mostly talk with external entities.
Difficult Employee Types
When a problem arises, it’s important to pinpoint if it’s a procedure issue or a personality issue. If it’s an issue with the way things are done, you will probably need to find a way to optimize business processes (perhaps with the help of employee monitoring software). Conversely, if your workers are clashing because of their personality traits, you will need to find a way to make them communicate in a productive way so as not to disturb the rest of the company employees.
Every good manager is a little bit of a psychologist. They have enough experience or are willing to learn about the human psyche in order to be able to handle different types of people.
In that sense, here are the six most common types of difficult employees to look out for if you are a manager.
The hissers are the bullies of the team. They are pushy people who are prone to making speeches and ranting about a certain situation in the team or company. You never quite know what can set them off, but once provoked, they strike and bite, leaving chaos in their wake.
Managing tip: Try to delve into what is driving this person’s behavior. Make it clear that their actions are having an effect on the rest of the team, which is not acceptable if the consequences are negative. Work with them on a quarterly performance plan (or you can choose another period) with emphasis on real opportunities for personal growth and change - for example, via employee attendance tracking.
If the hisser just doesn’t care the way their behavior impacts the team and is unwilling to modify it, state that they’re not the right fit for the team anymore and that you expect them to move on to another company within a reasonable time frame.
This is the least accountable person in the team. Whether that’s their own fault or the previous manager happened to have a soft spot for them (and let a lot of things slide), it’s clear nothing that ever happens to this person is their own fault. They never take any responsibility for their actions, even if they endanger or pass the blame to coworkers, so it’s difficult to manage difficult employees of this type.
Managing tip: It’s up to the manager to clearly define accountability on the team level, while HR or other company officials can do it in terms of the entire firm.
Be explicit and comprehensive about what the employees’ duties, responsibilities, and expected level of work quality are, make sure the task deadlines are clear, and define the repercussions in case all this is not delivered as arranged.
Regardless of whether you have implemented a time and attendance tracking software or not, one thing is for sure. There is always that one colleague who calls in sick dangerously close to the project deadline, or goes out on a coffee run and doesn’t even come back to the office for the rest of the day. The ghost is the one person you can never rely on to get any actual work done, but is there to take the credit afterward.
Managing tip: You can’t really expect a ghost to change their stripes. In their heart of hearts, they are usually aware the job isn’t right for them, so they are unconsciously fighting it by evading responsibilities (or are unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to cheat time tracker software). Whether it’s because they don’t feel like they’re up to it or would rather work somewhere else, they are just not getting the job done.
Hence, the best way for a manager to approach this issue is to have a sit-down and a frank conversation with them about where they see themselves and what they should do to get there.
The Negative Nellie
Negative Nellie somehow always finds a way to burst the bubble. Whether it’s a new colleague joining the team, a new project time tracker app that is being implemented, or a new company policy that introduces a completely new process - they are averse to change in any shape or form.
Managing tip: It’s true - negative Nellies are very trying! They require a lot of patience and sometimes even thick skin, but they can have a positive effect on team dynamics. While their opinion is almost always negative, if supported by valid arguments, it can offer another perspective on a matter.
In situations where the entire team is impacted by a problem (like assessing the pros and cons of employee monitoring), this attitude actually contributes to having a complete picture. Just make sure their negative supposition doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the group - don’t assign them leadership roles.
As is true in real life, so is in the office - narcissists are not team players by any means. All they care about are their own egos, whether that means lighter workload, bigger paycheck, more time off than the rest of the team, etc.
Managing tip: While highly unlikely and rare as hens’ teeth, a change in attitude is possible for a narcissistic coworker. It’s up to the manager to decide if it’s worth the trouble. If the person is extremely talented and valuable to the team and company, you might want to create an option for them to work alone (and monitor them via remote workforce management software) or to have limited team interaction.
However, even for that to work, you need to find what it is that motivates them toward success and strive together to make adjustments in that direction. You also need to make it absolutely clear what their position in the company is and that they also have responsibilities that need to be fulfilled regardless of the exceptions made just for them.
It’s the smartest person in the room and they know it. Their knowledge is vast, usually insufficiently utilized, and they are quick to show it. These people are known for their rigid views on matters, which makes them come off as arrogant.
Managing tip: Have Einstein analyze the ways their intelligence impacts the team - positive and negative consequences alike. Allow them to draw their own conclusions about the change they need to make to better fit the team, but watch them closely once they start implementing them (monitor software for PC can help you there) so you can steer them in the right direction.
How Managers Should Behave
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to approach each problematic situation carefully, empathetically, and argumentatively. It will make you a better manager because you will be able to solve an issue in a constructive manner without disturbing the working environment.
Here are a few tips on how to manage a difficult employee regardless of their types of personality.
Never Raise Your Voice
Loudly spoken words aren’t necessarily powerful. Especially in a working environment, it’s not something you should ever do when faced with underperforming or insubordinate employees.
The right approach in such situations is having strong arguments for your side of the discussion. Remember that it’s not always about what you say but how you say it.
Just never lose your temper - keep a calm and collected attitude at all times. By simply correcting your voice, your employees will be more open to talk about issues and accept suggestions for improvements (like increasing team time spent on joint assignments).
Always Have Good Arguments
As a manager, you can never accuse your employees of unprofessional behavior without corroborating your claims.
For example, if you think someone in your staff is being unproductive, and you have implemented a monitoring solution, you can always use the information from that source as proof that what you’re saying is true.
This works for both in-office and remote employee monitoring.
If you start tracking the organization’s time with Workpuls, you can see not only who was late for work, when, and how often, but also what kind of websites they visit and how much time they spend away from their computers while they should be working.
You can flag productive, unproductive, and neutral websites and apps employees are using, as well as take a look at the randomly taken screenshots. The data is stored for up to two years, so there is plenty of work history to be created for each employee.
This is just a small part of why Workpuls has been featured in the list of best employee monitoring software in 2017.
Show Employees You Appreciate Them
Basically, make sure to give credit if it’s well-deserved.
Psychology plays a huge role in managing difficult situations and employees. Everyone likes feeling appreciated - it’s actually probably the least you can do to raise the level of job satisfaction in your staff.
Commend them for a task done exceptionally well, say you like it when they complete it much sooner than expected, ask for their opinion for certain decisions that affect the entire team. All of these small tokens of appreciation will not only show your employees you value their opinion, but also respect them - and it will help you manage difficult employees.
Find the Best Fit
This is best done during the recruiting process, but as your team grows and new assignments surface, you might want to revisit the conversation of what is it that your employees do best.
If a new employee just can’t seem to find the role that’s right for them, or hasn’t performed quite the way you expected, give them a real opportunity to shine. After all, you’ve hired them because you recognized certain qualities beneficial for the company, not because you needed another person to track time and attendance for.
After a while, revisit this conversation with the veteran employees as well. Since it’s expected of them to continually grow and learn new skills or perfect the old ones, it’s only natural that you give them the opportunity to showcase what they know best. Moreover, why shouldn’t they try their hand at something that they’ve only started learning if it’s of low importance at this point?
Consider job description fluid whenever possible - you never know, you may have hired a receptionist, but gained a copywriter. They just need a chance.
Set Clear Goals
Every employee needs to have a clear picture of their responsibilities in a set future period (for example, next quarter), as well as what the consequences will be if they don’t achieve those goals. You can set this up in an employee time management tool of your choice.
Managing is not about just delegating tasks, but also making sure the staff can handle them both in terms of their abilities and realistic objectives.
If at any point you suspect they are having difficulties, the least you can do is ask them about it. A simple “How are you doing?” and “Do you need any help?” goes a long way and shows that you care about the job and the employee.
Moreover, this also ensures there are no excuses later on, should the difficult employee try to serve any.
Talk to Other Employees
As a good manager, you should strive to get as much information as you can about any issue in your team. After checking the employee desktop monitoring software for any regularities in workers’ behavior, you might also want to speak with other people in your team about anything strange they might have noticed or have concerns about.
Not only will you validate or negate your suspicions, but you will also get a more complete picture of a problem - get a second opinion on the matter.
Maybe one of the difficult employees has confided in a colleague, and they believe you should be aware of what is happening. Maybe their “difficulty” is actually a sign of a much deeper issue you need to investigate.
Seek Advice From Other Managers
If you are new at your position and can’t seem to get a handle of this one problematic person, or you know their previous manager, you might want to consult with them. Their experience can be of great help - especially if they’ve had prior experience with this particular difficult employee.
Being of the mindset that there is always something more you can learn from other people in your profession, you can gather plenty of useful information on how to manage a difficult employee that can help you greatly in future attempts at dealing with not-so-perfect staff.
It’s not uncommon for an office to have that one guy who just stands out from the others with his unprofessional behavior or negative influence on the rest of the team. What matters is how you handle them.
Maybe they’re unaware of their behavior and just need their attention drawn to the problem everyone else is seeing. Maybe they are testing you and the team and will stop behaving badly as soon as someone says something. Maybe they are having real issues that need to be seriously dealt with. Or they might just not be the right fit for your collective.
Remember - the way you come to the resolution depends on your approach as much as it does on the difficult employees’ willingness to do something about it.
This article was originally written on August 3rd, 2017 by Jovan Bojovic. It was updated on June 25th, 2020 by Aleksandra Djordjevic.