Some people make being the boss a chore. They’re your most difficult employees.
Ironically, they aren’t bad performers – but they’re difficult in so many other ways!
These aren’t the employees who cause legal trouble such as harassment or bias. They’re the employees who frustrate their managers, drive co-workers crazy and often spark negativity in the workplace.
They’re culture killers.
In fact, more than 70% of employees say they’ve quit a job because of a difficult co-worker, boss or manager. And more than 80% of employees say a difficult colleague has slowed down or completely stopped work, according to research from Zoomshift.
The most difficult employees don’t just annoy others. They hurt productivity.
What’s said about most difficult employees
As an HR leader, you probably hear about them more informally — in the break room or after meetings with exasperated comments such as: She’s so annoying! He’s always doing …! I can’t believe she actually said that!
And front-line managers might mumble: This job would be great if I didn’t have to deal with him. Does she ever let up?
“Even well-intentioned bosses often don’t know how to handle office jerks,” says says Tessa West, in her book Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them. “But most of us can handle problems at work if we can predict them and then strategize what to do.”
So that’s why front-line managers want to identify and rein in the most difficult employees much as possible. HR can help.
Here are five of the most difficult employees to manage — and the best ways to get them on track so everyone has time and energy to focus on what’s more important.
1. The Blamer
It’s never The Blamer’s fault. In fact, it’s always someone else’s fault. She loves to point fingers, often before anyone asks, “What happened?” She won’t be accountable.
Your strategy: Focus on facts, whether you’re trying to get her to take responsibility for an error or her own improvement. Be specific with behaviors, times, places and expectations.
For instance, “You finished the inspection at noon. The machine broke down at 12:10, and the problem was on a part you inspected. You missed a checkpoint, and I’d like to review the process with you now.”
2. The Ego
He’s full of himself. He knows everything that needs to be known about his job, the company, operations, etc. He’s often reluctant to hear feedback and make changes because … well, he knows everything.
Your strategy: Compliment him on his ideas and initiative. Then maintain your authority by holding his feet to the fire to act on all his ideas.
For instance, “You’re on to something with your thoughts about the problems in our billing system and suggestion to overhaul it. I’d like to see three proposals with a benefits analysis of each by next Friday.”
3. The Victim
The Victim thinks he does nothing wrong. If something goes wrong, it’s because others have sabotaged him. He’s often holding on to something that happened years ago as the reason he’s not successful today.
Your strategy: Empathize without enabling. He believes he is victimized, so listen to the issues. Acknowledge his feelings, but stop short of validating them. Encourage him to take action.
For instance, “I understand that you’re upset Chase was picked for the project and you weren’t. It would be a good idea to offer help in gathering research since data is your strong point.”
4. The Bully
Some bullies are just mean. Others are passive-aggressive, subtly pushing around others and undermining them.
Even worse, many of them don’t necessarily break rules. Instead, their toxic personalities put people on edge and create a state of unhappiness.
Your strategy: Tackle bullying straight-on, because if you don’t, it can turn into harassment and lawsuits. Point out exact behaviors, incidents and results. Explain consequences for the behavior.
For instance, “You shouted three times during our meeting. People were upset. If you shout again, I’ll pull you off the team and note it as a first-strike offense. Two more, and you can be fired.”
5. The Slacker
The biggest problem with a Slacker is she doesn’t care that she adds no value to your group. She does the minimum and looks for reasons to do less.
Your strategy: More structure. Slackers need specific goals for quality, quantity and timely work. Ideally, set goals that play to a Slacker’s strengths.
For instance, “Sid, I want you to make 11 customer calls by noon today. At least half must result in a sale. How will you make it happen?”