Hard to Manage Employee? 6 Tips to Help You Take Charge

Spend enough time as a manager, and eventually, it’ll happen: You’ll come across a difficult employee. 

Maybe they think they know everything; maybe they’re just cranky and not a team player. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what the problem is — what matters is how you go about addressing the situation and trying to salvage the relationship. 

Here are some tips on how to regain control of the situation when a difficult employee tries to throw things off course. 

  • Lazy Larry or Louise.

    These employees have no motivation and want to take the easy way out. Cleaning? Not their job. Organizing? Not interested. Time to help fill orders? Time to stop and elaborately tie a boot. This lack of motivation and energy can easily bring the rest of the team down to a snail’s pace. How to address this: Start with a conversation. Ask whether their current responsibilities are of any interest to them. Is there a job they’d rather be doing? Is there a task they don’t feel they understand and, as a result, they avoid it? Is there something going on at home that’s causing them to lose sleep and have less energy at work? Try to find a solution before issuing a warning. 

  • Argumentative Andy or Annie.

    Whatever you say, this person will do the opposite. They’ll disagree, offer sarcastic replies, tell people to do things their way. This can cause big problems, especially if it could result in someone not following safety precautions and getting hurt. Maybe they’re also taking their anger out on coworkers and creating an unpleasant environment for everyone. The best way to address this is to pull the person aside and explain the consequences for failing to follow directions and orders. Explain the dangers of a toxic work environment and that if they don’t adjust their attitude, there could be corrective action taken. If things don’t get better, don’t let that be an idle threat. 

  • Bossy Bill or Betty.

    These employees know everything and want everyone else to know it. They’ll take it upon themselves to order their colleagues around regardless of whether they should or if it’s their responsibility. If they’re handing out instructions or telling people what to do, and they’re not a supervisor or team leader, this can cause confusion among everyone else. To correct this situation, remind them of the chain of command and their place in it. Remind them that you’re the boss and of any other managerial missteps they’ve made, and if an opportunity presents itself, try to give them an outlet for their misdirected leadership attempts. 

  • Insubordinate Iggy or Ida.

    Worse than being argumentative is the employee who is openly insubordinate. They don’t just argue with you; they plot against you and try to get their teammates on their side — against you. This is possibly the most difficult situation a manager has. Sit them down and have a conversation about appropriate workplace conduct. Try to determine whether it’s a personal issue or if there’s a disagreement on a larger level. Does the employee feel slighted somehow? Try to listen and find solutions, but make it clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. 

  • Sloppy Sam or Sue.

    Maybe they just don’t pay attention to the task at hand. Maybe they do, but they leave their work area a mess. Maybe they come to work unprepared for the day and need more time than everyone else to get ready. While it’s not quite time theft, it’s worth a gentle reminder that they don’t work in a vacuum, and they need to be considerate of others when it comes to keeping things tidy and neat. They might not even realize it! 

  • Negative Nick or Nancy.

    Everything is awful all the time. Nothing’s good. Nothing’s positive. Everything is the WORST, and there’s no end in sight. That kind of bad attitude sucks the air out of a room and kills any energy or enthusiasm a team might have. They don’t like the company, and they don’t like this policy or that practice; they disagree with anything you tell them. Here’s another situation where it’s worth trying to correct the situation with a little redirection of energy but, ultimately, like an insubordinate employee, showing them the door might be the solution if things don’t improve. 

Working with employees who work against you can be difficult. But the alternative might be worse: It could leave your team short-handed, it could breed distrust and ill will, and it could create more bad apples if not addressed. 

If you’re looking for new team members who will contribute to your company’s success instead of trying to hold it back, call Debbie’s Staffing. We have skilled candidates ready and eager to join a team like yours! Contact us today, and let’s start working on a brighter future.