Dealing with a tough employee? Practical tactical and managerial moves to help you

Sometimes as a manager, getting the job done isn’t one of your most challenging moments but rather employee behavior. There’s always that one or two employees who are very difficult to handle. They conflict with your coworkers, miss deadlines and clock in late. However, due to various circumstances, you are not able to let them go.

The employee might be very talented or poses a unique skill that getting rid of them would do more harm than good to the company. However, you want to maintain your cool and blood pressure levels if you will have to work with the employee in the long run. So, how do you approach such a tough employee?



Sometimes employees are just throwing tantrums because there is an underlying personal problem or issue concerning their work. Just like their fingerprints, employees are unique and can’t be approached with a one size fits all design. In this regard, you want to understand your employee better in order to see where they are coming from. To understand the issues bothering the employee, you will want to listen to them.

There is a very high chance that such employees have underlying issues that need attention. To make it easy for you and your team, have a friendly chat with the difficult employee. If you are persuasive enough, or they trust you, they will definitely let you know what’s going on. If they are having a problem that you can solve at the office, promise them that you are going to find a solution as soon as possible. In fact, follow up with the progress and the steps you are taking so that they can feel confident in you. You will automatically see behavior change in the employee.

It’s quite essential to understand your employees on a personal level. As mentioned earlier, each employee in your company is unique. In this regard, they all have different interests and respond to different motivations. Contrary to popular belief, money isn’t always the motivation. Some people just want better technology, work from home opportunities, flexible works schedules and even a personal parking space. Make sure you find out what your tough employee’s needs are and try to find solutions.



Many times managers find it difficult to approach an employee in regards to their behavior because they lack evidence. In this regard, ensure that you document your employee’s mistakes or sessions where you discussed their behavior for reference. Also, make sure that the HR department is aware of the issues with the employee. In this way, you can validate your claims when it gets to a point where you need to let the employee go. Documenting the sessions also allows you to have a reference point when discussing employee’s behavior with them.

Make sure you have follow-up conversations with the employee and ensure that they know you are recording the sessions. Documenting the sessions and sending them to the employee will not only give them a chance to reflect but also crucial for reference in future.


Let them know the consequences

If you have examined the above methods and the employee’s behavior hasn’t changed, you need to let them understand that there are consequences for particular behavior. At this time, you can have a third-party such as the HR or immediate manager as a witness. In most cases, when employees know they will be punished for doing something, they are likely to avoid it totally.

Make sure you approach the employee in a friendly manner so that they don’t take it as a threat. Let them know that their behavior is affecting other employees and productivity at the office. Depending on the issue, start with consequences that won’t hurt the employee’s enthusiasm such as cutting down their leave days as a consequence of absenteeism. Make sure you have the schedules managed by an automated time management system such as index time clock so that they can see the number of hours missed.


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