3 Steps to Handling Challenging Employees!
Every manager in their career stumbles across a challenging employee….one who frustrates them and takes a lot of their energy to manage. “Challenging” employees come in different shades of grey. In addition, what one manager considers frustrating another may not.
Note: I’m addressing performance-based issues for managers. Serious issues such as violence, sexual harassment or drug abuse are situations where a manager must work with legal or human resources department.
Some Challenging Employee Issues for Managers:
Someone with an “attitude” (note: you can never address an attitude, only the actual behavior, otherwise the employee does not know what to change.)
Doesn’t work well with other members on the team
Fail to meet expectations
Great at some things and weak in others
Fail to follow procedures
Manager’s fears when speaking with employees:
that the employee may react defensively;
that the current labor market is tight; or
that the issue seems minor and mentioning it could de-motivate your employee
To make your life easier as a manager, just follow some basic steps in dealing with your “challenging” employees. It is always best to address a behavior or performance-based issue when it is small. I’ve found that most employees want to perform and will work hard to correct any issues their manager has with their performance.
Sit down with the employee and find out how they feel about their job and do they have any concerns or issues they want to discuss. The atmosphere must be conducive for the employee to talk. Don’t rush into your agenda, but rather be open to what they have to say. You may find out that there is a perfectly good reason for their behavior. Find out if the employee is frustrated with some aspect of their job, your management style, or may be there is a personal issue that is challenging them. This open conversation can potentially eliminate a lot of stress for both of you.
If it’s your management style, then find out how you can best support them so they are productive in this role. Don’t take it personally,…….your the manager, and it’s your job to insure your employees are performing at their best.
What if they say nothing is wrong, everything is just fine with them. I’ve found in my years of working in Human Resources, a person’s behavior is indicative that something is affecting their performance. They may not be aware of their behavior and it may seem perfectly normal to them. In that case, go to step two.
Before you sit down with the employee, create some notes around the behavior or performance issue you find disturbing or challenging. This helps keep you focus especially if the employee gets defensive. As an added note, this is their problem and you are there to support them in finding a solution.
State clearly the behavior or performance issue you want to address with them and provide no more than three examples to support your concern. If they become defensive, listen to them for a while to see if there you can gather information to further understand how to support the employee. If they are rambling, bring them gently back to the issues and ask them what they think they need to do to correct the situation. Help them come up a suitable solution.
Follow Up! No matter what the outcome of the meeting, always follow up with the employee. If you need to provide further clarity for the employee, then do so. If the employee has solved their problem, then acknowledge them. Let them know that you are available to help them with any of their concerns.
If you use these three basic steps to handle the daily challenges of building a strong team, you will decrease your frustration and create standards for your team to succeed.