Here’s a story you might be able to relate to.

It’s the third time this week a manager had asked you to deal with a difficult employee and the week is still far from over.

You begin to wonder why they can’t seem to follow company policies or get along with each other. If they did, you would have more time to focus on the more pressing HR tasks you have on your plate.

It can be time consuming to deal with a difficult employee. It takes a lot of patience to find out the cause of the problem and to come up with the best solution. It may be easier to just issue warning letters or to let go of an employee, but you could be doing more harm than good.

According to a Glassdoor study, 90% of the job market is candidate driven.  This means that filling up vacant positions has become more difficult. The company would be better off retaining an employee.

Is There An Easier Way To Deal With Problem Employees? 

The good news is; it is possible to reduce the instances of having employees with issues.  The old saying “prevention is better than cure” can be the perfect solution.

The key is to identify the common triggers to employee’s behavior.  Triggers can come in the form of company policies (or the lack thereof) in certain situations. Leadership styles, operational processes, and personal problems are also common triggers.

Deal with challenging employees by creating steps that will address their triggers. Some good ways to do this would be to:

  • create employee engagement programs;
  • build a culture of trust;
  • introduce an employee assistance program;
  • provide growth opportunities; and
  • organize leadership seminars

Create Employee Engagement Programs

Companies value employees that perform their jobs well. Sadly, many employees are not aware of their value to the company. It is quite common to find workers that downplay their roles by looking at their jobs as “just a job” and nothing more.

To an employee, there’s nothing worse than the feeling of being expendable. This negative emotion often leads to  demotivation and bad behavior.

The best solution to this is to establish an employee engagement program. The program is a means for the company to acknowledge an employee’s value. The more they feel valued, the more they’ll focus on their jobs. There’s also a good chance that they’ll ignore petty arguments or problems.

Moreover, studies show that employee engagement programs are a good way for a company to increase revenue. Such programs create a positive environment that leads to better performance. As a result, productivity increases and so does revenue.

Build A Culture of Trust

The lack of trust among colleagues, leaders, or the company itself can cause a lot of inconsistencies and problems. Trust issues happen everywhere in the world. In fact, it would be difficult to find a company that hasn’t had the same problem.

Unfortunately, this problem is the most difficult to fix. In most cases, the solution would need a change in the company’s culture.

There are many ways to foster trust within the organization. One of the best ways is to improve transparency. Trust is the fruit of being transparent with objectives and decisions.

Employees need to know where the company is headed. They also need to know the reason behind every decision made. They don’t need to be involved in making decisions but they do need to be aware.

Once this happens, employees begin to treat the company as if it were their own. This will pave the way for trust within the company to improve and prosper.  This, however, will not happen overnight. It may take months or even years to solve trust issues.

Introduce an Employee Assistance Program

Personal problems can make an employee difficult to deal with. Most companies make it a rule to leave personal problems at home but everybody knows this is not possible for all.

Personal problems will stick with you no matter where you are. The only thing you can do is to think of the best way to manage it. Unfortunately, some people can be more affected than others and they become an issue out of their problem as a result.

HR does not supervise employees directly. It’s the supervisor who tend to these problems. These problems can be prevented from getting worse by creating a policy on how to deal with such situations.

A good example of such a policy is the Employee Assistance Program or EAP. This program is a way for an employee to resolve any of the personal issues they may have at a given time. In most cases, EAPs should be able to help the employee get back on track and focus on productivity. If the EAP fails to do this, you might need to recommend disciplinary action.

Provide Growth Opportunities

Another reason for difficult behavior is the lack of an opportunity to grow. It’s natural for a person to want to grow within the company. In fact, it’s unhealthy for a person to be without goals.

Unfortunately, companies don’t always have to option to expand. But this doesn’t mean you can’t create growth opportunities. Skills development or personal development programs can also help employees to grow.

Organize Leadership Seminars

Leadership has always been a major concern for companies. In fact, it’s normal to have conflicts between leaders and employees.

One of the reasons behind such conflicts is different leadership styles. Some people find it difficult to adjust from one style to another. This difficulty often results in a various conflicts.

An immediate solution would be to enforce the employee to adjust. However, doing so would only be effective to that particular employee.

A longer term solution for such concern is to find ways for leaders to practice one suitable style. A good way to do this is to organize leadership seminars that aim to create a leadership standard.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

It’s important to manage challenging employees on the onset to reduce the chances of losing them. But, it’s also important to prevent them from becoming difficult in the first place and  HR needs to be more proactive when it comes to prevention and management of such employees.

Always remember that there’s a solution to every problem. As an HR manager, your task is to find a permanent solution and to prevent it from happening again in the future.


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