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Managing difficult employee

Sometimes we come across difficult people at workplace. Most of us dislike them for the negative behaviour but we meet them and work with them almost daily. One can easily identify them at the workplace because they are found as some who:

  • Is generally irregular at work.
  • Will have excuses for every failure.
  • Will harass people.
  • Will challenge people unnecessarily.
  • Will neglect details and will be poor in documentation.
  • Will ask too many questions.
  • Will be impolite while talking to colleagues and clients.
  • Will say misappropriate or misleading words.


No one likes to work with such people. Presence of such people at workplace affects others resulting in drop of productivity, drop of moral, increase of frustration, etc. The longer a difficult employee continues to make problems, the worse the workplace will become.

Before becoming too worried with the thought of dealing with difficult employees, we suggest the following actions to begin the process:

  1. Confront the issue or behaviour immediately. Don’t wait until the issue or the behaviour becomes too big and unmanageable.
  2. Maintain professional courtesy and confidentiality. When you discuss with the employee, have the discussion in private area.
  3. Be specific about concerns, and let the employee know you are well informed.
  4. Since you are conducting a discussion, allow the employee a chance to respond.
  5. Be transparent. Cleary articulate why the behaviour or the action is inappropriate. If possible provide examples to show how such behaviour is impacting the organisation, the colleagues and the clients.
  6. Very clearly talk about expectations.
  7. It is important to communicate clearly to the employee that the behaviour has to end immediately.
  8. Since this is a process, which may take some time to become fully effective, it is important to let the employee know that his behaviour will be monitored. It is also important to tell the employee that there will be consequences if there is reoccurrence.
  9. Document the entire conversation in writing, mentioning what you said and what the employee said. The document should get filed in HR department, and a copy of the document to be handed over to the employee.
  10. If all fails, then the some serious action may become necessary. If the employee continues to deny his inappropriate behaviour and refuses to try to improve the situation, the manager needs to place this person on fast track towards termination. Often this involves a series of well-documented verbal and then written feedback about the behaviour. The employee may be given a time period to improve his / her behaviour. But if there is no improvement of behaviour, then the employee needs to be terminated.

Do keep the Human Resource department people informed. It will be better if at some stage of this negotiation the HP people are involved in direct talking with the employee.